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Never Say Never

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“Ahhhhh, such lovely despair! How does it feel to know that the one you trusted all this time actually helped put you into this situation? That she decided that her sister’s despair was more important than your hope?”

Junko Enoshima, the real Ultimate Despair, laughed hysterically as she posed the question to her classmates, feeding off their negativity and hopelessness. Her eyes sparkled with euphoria as she glanced to all of them, knowing there was no way they could forgive—

“No…you’re wrong!”

All at once, the despair enthralled woman ceased her laughter as the voice of the little punk who’d ruined everything spoke up. Narrowing her eyes, she glared daggers at Makoto Naegi as he met her gaze with an even more determined look than before.

“Even if what you say is true, she decided to side against you! She chose hope rather than despair!” Makoto insisted, the fire in his eyes lighting the flames of hope within his classmates.

“She saved my life…and for that, I can’t condemn her!” a blue haired idol concurred.

“Without her, I’d have been pounded with balls to death! There’s no way I’m letting her die that way!” a fiery red haired ballplayer also agreed.

“She was kind and supported me…even knowing my secret!” a petite programmer chirped.

“And she worked hard to help keep everyone alive!” a biker gang leader insisted.

“She followed your cruel rules to the letter and never gave up! Despite how unfair it was!” a certain moral compass joined in.

“Not to mention that she did a fantastic job at cosplay!” a fanfic creator praised.

“She helped all of us be who we really are, despite not being able to be herself…” a gambler insisted, placing one last huge bet.

“And she didn’t make excuses for her actions or even ask for forgiveness…” a muscular fighter stepped up.

“Yeah! So what if she betrayed us before! She’s on our side now!” an enthusiastic swimmer chimed in.

“And she would totally kill you to get us out of here! Hahahahaha!!!” a murderous fiend commented, all too gleefully.

“And she did make a promise to get us out of here,” a lazy clairvoyant added.

“Hmph, she has been a great asset and I would like to continue utilizing her in the future, if you don’t mind,” a affluent progeny said harshly, glaring menacingly at the mastermind.

“She solved the greatest mystery of this school and led us here to face you. It would be a betrayal on our part to condemn her for her actions now,” a stoic detective countered, a smirk slowly appearing on her lips.

Faced with all this positivity made Junko want to vomit blood. However, she didn’t need to because she still had one final trick up her sleeve.

“Hmph, whatever. It doesn’t matter what you think of her…because it’s time for the final vote!!”

A chill ran down everyone’s spine as Junko forcibly got the final trial back on track. They had all but forgotten that this was indeed a class trial and there always had to be a vote. Even now, at the end of the game, the rules were still absolute.

Knowing this, a gleeful smirk erupted on Junko’s lips as she continued, “This time, you’ll be voting to either punish hope…or despair! And if even one of you votes for the despair of living here forever, then you all lose! But…if you decide to punish despair, then you have to punish both of the Ultimate Despair!!”

Glancing across the courtroom, her maniacal grin widening even more, Junko pointed a painted nail toward their friend and savior.

“Isn’t that, right?! Mukuro Ikusaba!!”

Chapter Text

This couldn’t be real…it had to be a dream. No, it was a nightmare.

Makoto Naegi told himself over and over that he was still unconscious after passing out in the school lobby, but the shaking of his legs forced him to realize that he was wrong. That strange half and half bear, Monokuma it called itself, had just informed all of them that the only way to leave this place was to commit the ultimate sin…murder.

Hesitantly looking to all sides, Makoto found himself completely surrounded by all his ‘classmates’:

There was Sayaka Maizono – the Ultimate Pop Sensation. The most popular idol in all of Japan and lead singer of an all girl group, whom she cares for as her closest and most dearest friends. Quite popular among boys and girls alike.

Near her was Leon Kuwata – the Ultimate Baseball Star, who had broken out into a cold sweat. He’d been named one of the best baseball players in Japan but despite his overwhelming talent, he openly voiced his dislike of the sport and his desire to change his talent to the Ultimate Musician.

Just beyond them was Junko Enoshima – the Ultimate Fashionista. A model whose beauty and grace were known throughout the world. Meeting her in person, however, something felt a bit off with this girl.

Almost fading into the background just behind her was Toko Fukawa – the Ultimate Writing Prodigy. Being a master of literature, she had already written a best-selling romantic novel. In addition, it was well-known that she tended to avoid contact with anyone as much as possible, especially in public.

Turning to glance the other way, Makoto saw one of his classmates scratching his head with a dull expression on his face. This was Yasuhiro Hagakure – the Ultimate Clairvoyant. A man who is either entirely honest or just plain stupid, he claims to be able to glimpse into the future with a 30% accuracy rate. He was held back many times, making him much older than all of his classmates.

Beyond him stood a fidgeting Hifumi Yamada – the Ultimate Fanfic Creator. A young man who’s passion for the 2D and the arts had earned him recognition though all forms of fandom, going so far as to claim that he had absolutely no interest in anything 3D.

Not far from him stood Celestia Ludenberg – the Ultimate Gambler, who was also eyeing her fellow classmates. She was a strange girl dressed in Gothic Lolita, who claimed to have gambled her entire life. No one could see through the passive mask, behind which she hides her true emotions.

Growling angrily to her left was none other than Mondo Owada – the Ultimate Biker Gang Leader. He was one of the students who stood out the most, with his pronounced pompadour and duster. Even at his young age, his reputation preceded him as the well-known de facto leader of almost every biker gang in all of Japan.

Trembling slighting at the biker’s enraged visage, Chihiro Fujisaki – the Ultimate Programmer, glanced around timidly. Although small and frail, she was considered a master of computer programming and even built a fully functional AI that was capable of learning on its own.

Sternly but cautiously glancing around nearby, Kiyotaka Ishimaru – the Ultimate Moral Compass, carefully observed the situation. This diligent young man was dedicated to the honor and rules of not only education but of the laws which govern the country. He believed in stern discipline and hard work above all else…much to the chagrin of anyone in close proximity to him.

Shifting his gaze over his shoulder, Makoto saw the overpowering gaze of Byakuya Togami – the Ultimate Affluent Progeny, glaring at him. Heir to the prestigious Togami Family, it was obvious that he’d been groomed since birth to lead not only his family, but the entire world as a born leader. He cared little for others as he did not see them as people, merely tools for him to use.

Averting his eyes away from the ferocious heir, Makoto instead focused on the nervous Aoi Asahina – the Ultimate Swimmer. Her usual bright and cheerful demeanor was slightly stilted but it seemed that, even in this situation, she trying to keep a positive attitude…also she has an insatiable love for donuts because reasons. She has won various sports championships but held the most records for swimming competitions.

Standing next to her, as if to watch over and protect her, stood Sakura Ogami – the Ultimate Martial Artist. Her imposing figure was enough to prove that she had won numerous tournaments, even some overseas. She was also known as a revered and formidable warrior, as well as an honorable woman. Due to her large size and massive build, she was given the nickname “The Ogre”.

And then, standing far in the back, observing everyone quietly, stood Kyoko Kirigiri – the Ultimate…the Ultimate…what was her title again? She neglected to discuss her title, much to everyone’s chagrin. Otherwise, she remained eerily silent.

And finally, the completely normal and unexceptional…Makoto Naegi – The Ultimate Lucky Student. Having been given his title for winning a lottery, he certainly was the most average of average students, with no noticeable talents or ideals…or at least Makoto thought of himself that way. Although he did consider himself to be more optimistic than others…

Normally, being in this school with such exceptional people was nerve-wracking enough, but given their current situation, Makoto found that these people could be far more terrifying than he had ever imagined.

Steeling himself as best he could, Makoto glanced around at everyone and saw the same picture of fear and despair spreading over them all.

All of the new faces he’d met only a few minutes ago were now glaring at each other, some with apprehension, others with disdain, and few in utter shock. No one had been prepared for this startling announcement.

“There is one way for you to leave this school. If one of you murderers another, then they will graduate and be allowed to leave!”

The demented half and half bear had chuckled to itself as it had watched the despair shroud the eyes of the now hopeless students. And an instant later, he disappeared from sight, leaving them all with feelings of distrust and fear.

For a moment, Makoto didn’t honestly believe that any of his classmates would be capable of such a thing. Murder was not something anyone one of them would normally think about…right?

However, as he glanced around the room at the faces of his classmates, he was forced to realize that he really didn’t know any of them at all. Added to that, the pressure of knowing that there was no way to escape and the notion that you may be betrayed by anyone at any moment, it was a boiling pot that could only be contained for so long. Sooner or later, one of them might give in to the temptation and actually commit murder.

No, judging by the look in everyone’s eyes, the maddening fear and mistrust that was hidden away in all of them, it was not a matter of ‘if’…but of ‘when’.


 

Kyoko Kirigiri gazed around at the petrified faces of her fellow captives and sighed.

“At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before someone snaps.”

As this idea flooded her mind,she noted one thing that surprised even her. Her mind was clear and calm, despite the panic that should have been overtaking her. It’s true that she was frightened, even fearful for her life, but somehow she was able to bury that terrifying notion and maintain her composure.

Glancing around to her classmates, she could only frown. The fear had quickly taken root in all of them, that much she could plainly see. Some hid it better than others, but for some reason, with only a single glance, Kyoko could see through them. Even Celeste, who held a perfect mask of indifference, held great terror in her crimson eyes.

“Perhaps this is my talent,” Kyoko briefly wondered as she finished inspecting everyone. “Was I the Ultimate Observer?…No, that doesn’t feel right.”

A dull ache gnawed at her head as she tried to recall her talent and she squeezed her eyes shut. Now wasn’t the time to worry about such things. As the only person here with a completely clear head, she felt inclined to do what no other seemed willing to attempt.


 

The students’ gazes flickered between each other, all wondering who would be the first to break…the first to commit the ultimate sin of murder. It was just at this moment that one of the students seemed to break free of such terrors and was able to speak.

“So then, what are we going to do now?” a stern, female voice cut through the air, startling everyone.

Makoto slowly turned around to see the origin of the voice and was partially unsurprised at who had spoken.

Kyoko stood behind all of them, one hand resting on her chin in thought, as she questioned the nature of their situation aloud. Whether it had been to purposefully break them all out of the fearful stupor that they had been trapped in or simply an automatic reaction of her own devices, no one could tell.

But in either case, it was exactly what everyone needed to hear, even if it wasn’t particularly hopeful or meaningful. That simple question had forced all of their minds back into working order and it soon gave way to much discussion.


 

“I can’t believe I let myself get flustered by something like this! I am the Ultimate Moral Compass. If I cannot be a symbol of morality and order at a time like this, than no one else can!”

Kiyotaka cursed to himself as a cold sweat slid down his neck. He, too, had let the fear overtake him and in those brief moments of terror, his mind had briefly considered how far he was willing to go to get out of this school.

However, the moment Kyoko’s voice had reached him, calm and decisive as it was, he realized that it should have been him taking the lead and settling his classmate’s fears. It was fortunate he was not a jealous man, or else he might have been infuriated with his female classmate for doing what he could not. But as a man who could recognize his own faults, he felt only gratitude for her interruption.

For he was the Ultimate Moral Compass, one who aspired to keep order and preserve the honor and diligence necessary to achieve one’s goals. And right now, everyone’s goal should be to find a way to escape!

Now was not the time for thinking, now was a time for strict words and decisive actions!


 

“She’s right. We need to plan out our next move, very carefully,” Kiyotaka said to everyone, trying to bring order in this chaos. “I’m so ashamed that I let something like this startle me! Someone please, hit me!”

From across the room, Mondo scoffed and said, “What the hell is wrong with you, man? If you’ve got time to be a dipshit, you’ve got time to actually do something.”

“Perhaps, but…what exactly is our mission here?” Hifumi asked carefully, still trembling after hearing the horrific news.

“Stupid! We have to find a way out, duh!” Leon blatantly answered, shouting at him incredulously.


 

“I…I already know that!” Hifumi wanted to shout back at Leon but felt compelled to stay silent.

After all, he didn’t want to make any unnecessary enemies. Being one of the smarter and more artistic students, he felt rather outmatched by the brawn of his classmates, which translated to him that he could be seen as an easy target for murder!

So, for the time being, he would bide his time and try to stay out of everyone’s way. He had no plans to kill anyone but if he was threatened, he’d show them the power his manga characters had bequeathed him!


 

The air around everyone was tense but luckily, a quiet voice was able to bring everyone to their senses.

“Sh-Shouldn’t we take a look at the handbook then?” a timid voice suggested. Everyone turned to see Chihiro slowly lowering her hand. “We should probably get familiar with the regulations, so that we don’t accidentally break them while trying to find a way out.”

Everyone gave a quick glance at Mondo for a brief second, remembering his foolish attempt to harm Monokuma and the explosion that occurred moments afterward. As if a silent agreement was shared by all, as one they pulled out their e-handbooks and turned them on.


 

Chihiro breathed a quick sigh of relief, happy that everyone had taken the suggestion without incident. The Ultimate Programmer didn’t even want to think about what would have happened if anyone had refuted.

“It’s not like I would have insisted…but still.”

Shaking off the negative statement that went through her head, Chihiro quickly followed suit with everyone else and opened up her e-handbook. The smooth technology in her hand gave her renewed courage as she began her work on the device.

However, the instant she turned it on and her name flashed on the screen, another symbol appeared to torment her…the symbol that designated her sex as male.


 

“Whoa!” Yasuhiro shouted in excitement, gaining everyone’s attention. Holding out his handbook for everyone to see, he grinned and said, “My name came up when I turned it on! This thing is awesome!”

Makoto grimaced as he could almost feel the anger radiating off his classmates due to Yasuhiro’s comment. Tension was quickly rising and everyone was beginning to grow infuriated with him for not only acting like a fool but for his outright denial that this situation was really happening.

“Thanks, genius. We already figured that out!” Leon shouted before going back to reading the rules.

Everyone else did the same and for the next few minutes, they all stood there and read the rules that would dominate their lives for the foreseeable future. However, it didn’t take long before they all heard Mondo shouting in frustration.

“You piece of shit! Like hell I’m gonna let these rules hold me down! This is more bullshit than all the time I spent in juvie!”

His rage seethed and just before he exploded again, a soft but stern voice said, “Then by all means, feel free to go against these rules.”


 

“This is just another gamble…”

Celestia Ludenberg smiled as her classmates turned to glare at her, particularly the biker she had just insulted. However, even under their accusatory stares, she held her composure perfectly, not letting a hint of fear seep through her guise.

There was absolutely no way for them to know the utter terror she was experiencing at this moment. Her eyes flickered down to the screen of her e-handbook, the name Taeko Yasuhiro mockingly staring back at her.

She had gambled, bet away many precious ornaments, and even wagered her own body in many a match. However, this was nothing like her previous games. In all of her former wages, never once was there a possibility of defeat…a way for her to lose. But now, she was trapped in a place where a single misstep would lead to her own death. And that wasn’t the most horrifying part.

“I can’t stay trapped in this shit hole! I have to get out of here! I’m so close…so close to achieving my dream!”

Just beyond these walls, there was a life of luxury and pleasure awaiting her. However, the price to leave this place was steeper than she wanted to pay.

A life…she had never bet her life before, much less put her own against another. And this time, to win, meant that someone here must die for her. For her to have the life she’d always dreamed of, the life she’d risked everything to attain, she had to become a killer.

And like it or not, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

That is why her mind kept repeating that single phrase, the one notion that gave her the strength to once more risk everything, her life included, just for that single, solitary goal. It was time to lay her cards on the table and ask for a new hand…

“This is just another gamble…right?”


 

All heads turned to see Celeste, her hands folded under her chin, staring at Mondo with a tilted smile.

“I would love to see what happens when someone officially breaks one of the rules,” she added almost playfully, sending chills down everyone’s spine.

“B-But I don’t think he’d respawn after another offense. We all saw what happened last time,” Hifumi warned, coming to Mondo’s defense.

At the mention of that, the pompadour haired bike gritted his teeth and lowered his gaze. “Ever since I was a kid, my brother always told me, ‘When a man makes a promise, he’s gotta keep it, no matter what!’”.

As those words set in, a look of confusion spread over all who heard. When it was clear that Mondo was finished, one of the students took it upon herself to speak up.

“Uh, so what?” an insensitive Junko questioned, folding her arms and scoffing at him.

Snapping his head toward her, Mondo seethed, “So! I’ve got a ton of promises that I have to keep on the outside! I can’t afford to die here! That’s ‘so what’!”

Strangely enough, even though he was shouting directly at her, Junko didn’t seem to flinch. She merely stood there and took his assaulting words with the same frown she’d had plastered on her face for a while now.

“Anyway,” Junko said while fluffing her hair, “Does anyone have any idea what we should do now?”

“What about just waiting for the police?” Asahina asked, trying to be logical. “Surely someone’s noticed that we’ve gone missing.”

“That may not be true,” Celeste said, twirling her hair with her gaze downcast. “As far as we know, we may not even be in Japan anymore. And there is no guarantee that anyone is even searching for us, given that we have only been ‘missing’ for a single day.”

The group all lowered their heads, forced to admit that she might be right. No one had said it because it was almost unthinkable, but nevertheless, each student had pondered the same question.

Why had this been allowed to happen? Where were the police? Would they ever find them?

It was a grim reality that all of them had to face. Because, at least for now, they were all on their own with no one else to depend on. And with the looming threat of someone betraying them hanging over their heads, it felt nearly suffocating to have to accept.


 

“But…then what are we supposed to do?”

Asahina’s legs shook as she tried to keep composed. However, even she could feel herself beginning to break inside. All this talk about killing and escaping, being trapped with no way out, it was all too much for her to handle. She wanted to go home, she wanted to go swimming, and she wanted to eat donuts!

Ever since she’d awoken in this place, she suppressed her growing fears. But now that there was virtually no escape and everyone was getting more and more agitated with their situation, Asahina felt as if she was going to explode. She wanted to do something but just didn’t know what she could do to help!

“Someone…anyone…tell me what I need to do!”


 

As the silence dug into everyone, Asahina was overcome with the will to speak.

“B-But surely someone will…notice…that…we’re—”, the Ultimate Swimmer tried to protest before a hand gently landed on her shoulder.

Looking over her shoulder, Asahina found the tall, massively muscled Sakura giving her a solemn look.

“Let’s not worry about that for now,” her deep voice softly said, trying to calm down her classmate. “It hasn’t been long since we got here. Perhaps no one has noticed as of yet. We should focus on what we can do to keep our spirits up.”


 

Sakura gently smiled down at her classmate, having watched her slowly begin to panic under the weight of the situation.

Such perilous and life-threatening circumstances were not uncommon for the Ultimate Martial Artist, and unlike her classmates, she had experienced various touches with death in her life. And as such, she was utterly at peace with this desperate battle for survival. However, she knew her classmates were undoubtedly terrified. And even though she, too, held fear for her own life, she was prepared to be a pillar of strength to hold them all up.

At the very least, her new friend, Asahina, needed her to stay strong for her.

“Even if that is all I can do for them, I will use all of my strength to assist them!”


 

Hearing her newfound friend’s kind, yet powerful words, Asahina felt newfound strength flow into her and she wiped away the barely formed tears from her eyes.

“Yeah…you’re right!” she proclaimed, pumping both fist enthusiastically.

“S-So…what are we supposed to d-do now then?” Toko suddenly asked, her cheeks flushed from having to speak up. As everyone turned to her, she meekly pulled her shoulders in and continued, “I-It’s not as if w-we have any idea what’s g-going on. We could be w-walking right into t-that creepy bear’s trap!”


 

“W-W-Why is t-t-this happening to m-me?!” Toko practically shouted in her head, grabbing her skull and raking her nails across her scalp.

Her mind was racing and the fact that no one bothered to answer her frustrated her even more! Did they think less of her for speaking? She should just give in and let her other side take over and—

“NO! I can’t let that happen! If it does…they’ll kill me for sure!!!”

But what if…she saw a dead body! Or blood for any reason! Or if she even sneezed too hard!

If this was one of her novels, a dashing prince would swoop in and save her before she turned and then lead her out of this hellish situation! A handsome and dashing young man…with honey-colored hair…and eloquent glasses…who spoke with such authority that it made her feel—

She almost slapped herself as she felt her body begin to heat up. Now was definitely not the time to be fantasizing about her classmate…err…Prince! Because, unfortunately, it felt like it was only a matter of time before her deadly secret eventually came to light.

For the time being, she decided to force herself into silence, fearing the monster that could be unleashed with a single nostril flare.


 

A collective silence overcame everyone. No one was quite sure what they should be doing. And she did have a point. Who knew what that psychotic bear had planned for them or if he was even telling the truth to begin with. What made it all the more frightening was that none of these students had ever imagined themselves being in this situation and it was more than daunting.

Or at least, for some it was.

“For now, we should split up and search the area,” Kyoko’s calm voice answered, again bringing everyone back to reality. “We won’t get anywhere just standing around here, waiting for someone else to help us.”

Oddly enough, Makoto found it refreshing that someone had managed to bring about a sense of calm while not upsetting anyone. And no one could deny that there was a calm and collected aura that just made whatever Kyoko said feel right. As if she had seen these kinds of situations before and knew how to handle them.

Makoto didn’t have time to ponder the thought before another student abruptly spoke out.

“That’s right! We have far too many questions that need answers!” Kiyotaka concurred, waving his arm out to point at everyone. “We’ll need to find food and supplies as soon as possible! So, everyone, let’s go and search for a way to escape!”

“Damn straight! Let’s all start looking around!” Leon abruptly shouted, obviously feeling motivated.

“We should probably search in pairs, just in case something happens,” Sayaka suggested, smiling brightly to encourage everyone.

The group slowly began to nod and agree with this plan, as it felt like the best option. Not only that, they were slowly forgetting about Monokuma’s deadly offer.

Standing off to the side, Makoto smiled at everyone’s enthusiasm. He couldn’t help but marvel at how infections their determination seemed to be, as everyone tried their best to come up with a solution right away. Everyone was working together to try and find out what to do and it gave him hope that they could find a way out, together.

Seeing this suddenly made him feel a rush of motivation himself as he wanted to do his best for the group as well!

“Okay then, we can—”, he started to say before a sharp tone cut him off.

“I’ll be going on my own,” Byakuya’s harsh voice interrupted, startling everyone. Turning to look at him, the Ultimate Affluent Progeny folded his arms and turned his head away from the now staring crowd.

“A-Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Makoto tried to reason with him, unsure of why he refused to join them. “I mean, we all have to work together to—”.

“Shut up, will you?” Byakuya cruelly commanded, freezing Makoto where he stood. Turning his head back to glare at the Ultimate Lucky Student, the Togami Heir scoffed and said, “You don’t actually expect me to go along with your little group outing, do you? Not when someone could be plotting to stab any one of us in the back at any time.”

Another heavy silence fell upon the unfortunate students as they were forced to recognize his words. He had said what they had been keeping to themselves all this time, afraid to speak such a horrific possibility aloud. It was an inescapable fact that no one wished to acknowledge, and yet, they all new to be true.

Even so, some of the students didn’t wish to be reminded of this horrifying predicament.


 

“Such ignorance from all of them.”

Byakuya Togami seethed to himself as he folded his arms and glared at the peasants before him. The weak always gathered together to feel strong but watching such imbeciles forming a plan this foolish—no, this dangerous was more than he could stand.

If they wanted to get themselves killed, it was of no concern to him. However, they were trying to put his life in danger as well, and that he could never stand for.

Out of everyone here, he was the only one that truly deserved to survive. After all, the future of the Togami Family…no, the entire world, was resting solely on his shoulders. He had come too far, sacrificed too much for pathetic fools such as these to pull him down. And if they needed to be dealt with for him to survive, then so be it.

“They must learn what happens when you make such foolish choices…”


 

“B-But, you don’t really think that—”, Sayaka tried to say before she was rudely interrupted.

“Don’t even bother finishing,” Byakuya cruelly answered, almost seething at her. “You were about to say that no one among us would actually kill someone, am I right?”

“Uh…well, yes, but—”, she tried to continue but found herself immediately cut off again.

“How can you be certain of that? Didn’t all of you seize up with fear the moment the graduation rule was announced?” Byakuya questioned, turning his harsh glare onto everyone.

As he stared out across the room at his classmates, he watched as many of them hung their heads in shame. Aside from Kyoko and Celestia, everyone seemed to have a look of guilt plague them as they registered his words. Turning his fierce glare back toward her, Sayaka felt as if she was suffocated by his harsh gaze and fell into an embarrassed silence along with the rest of her classmates.

“Do you understand now?” the Ultimate Affluent Progeny mockingly pointed out. “None of you can say for certain who you can truly trust or not. I’m simply acting in accordance with what I believe is best for me. And because of that, I have decided not to foolishly put my life into the hands of untrustworthy commoners such as yourselves.”

Not even giving anyone time to react, he began to move toward the door, leaving almost everyone in a state of shock. However, he didn’t get far before a surprising figure moved in front of him and blocked his path.

“Hey! What’s your problem?!” Junko shouted at Byakuya, hands on her hips and leaning forward aggressively. “Saying stuff like that will only make this harder—”.

“Hmph, I won’t waste my time with peasants like you, now step aside,” Byakuya said harshly before pushing past the Ultimate Fashionista and heading for the door, ignoring the vicious glare she was shooting him.

“Asshole…” she grunted under her breath, tempted to flip him the bird.

Before she even had the time to fall to that temptation, someone shot past her and rushed in front of Byakuya, blocking his way again. The Ultimate Affluent Progeny slowly lifted his gaze to see Mondo cracking his knuckles and standing between him and door.

“Hey, asshole! You’re not going anywhere! Not after pulling a stunt like that! Now apologize to the girl or else—”.

“Move aside, plankton.”


 

“W-What the hell?”

It honestly took a moment for Mondo to understand what had happened. Most of the time, when he made a demand, people fell over each other to do it. And anyone who was stupid enough not to listen to him, well, they knew what was coming!

That’s why, when that arrogant prick Byakuya didn’t move, hell didn’t even flinch, something inside of Mondo began to twist. And unfortunately, just looking at the Ultimate Affluent Progeny made him feel like he was going to snap at any moment!

“You think you can look down on me! Don’t fuck with me asshole!”


 

The entire room seemed to freeze as Byakuya had clearly insulted the Ultimate Bike Gang Leader. Even Mondo found himself caught off-guard by the odd but thoroughly disrespectful comment. However, the shock only lasted for a moment before he gritted his teeth and angrily shouted in the rich student’s face.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean, huh?!” he demanded, feeling his anger boiling over.

With a mocking scoff, Byakuya pushed up the frame of his glasses and answered, “One insignificant little plankton floating aimlessly in the vast ocean. That is all you are and all you will ever be.”

Mondo practically felt a vain in his head pop at the demeaning explanation and he furiously pounded one fist into his palm, emphasizing how badly he was going to have to hit something.

“You piece of shit!!” the Ultimate Bike Gang Leader roared as he reared back and prepared to attack.

Just before he let his fist fly, someone threw themselves between him and Byakuya. Seeing that, Mondo ceased the attack and instead glared ferociously down at the young man that stood in his way.

“P-Please, both of you calm down! We can’t afford to fight like this!” Makoto insisted, trying to calm the delinquent as he continued to glare at him. Unfortunately, the Ultimate Lucky Student discovered that his luck truly was as poor as he believed as Mondo turned the full force of his angry, monstrous gaze down on him.

“And just who the hell do you think you are?! Trying to be some goody-goody little bitch!” the Ultimate Bike Gang Leader shouted, raising his fist menacingly. “Do you think you can tell me what to do?! Huh?! Do you, punk?!”

Suddenly backing away from the menacing Mondo, Makoto waved his arms frantically to try and avoid the fate he’d set upon himself.

“No, no! That’s not—!”

“Fuck you!”


 

Before anyone knew what happened, Mondo’s powerful fist slammed directly into the side of Makoto’s face, sending the small young man flying backward. Just before he lost consciousness from the sheer impact of the punch, Makoto felt a deep despair begin to take root in his mind.

I’d almost forgotten…I’m trapped in a school filled with Ultimates…I really shouldn’t be surprised by…” Makoto briefly thought before his body made brutal contact with the hard wood floor.


 

This was a surprising new development but one that wasn’t entirely without merit.

Beneath her masterful disguise, Mukuro Ikusaba watched in shock as Makoto literally was blown off his feet from the force of the punch, sending him flying back and landing in a heap near the center of the gym.

Not many things could send a body flying like that, as least not without considerable firepower. Despite that, it was clear that the Ultimate Bike Gang Leader had done so much damage with only a single punch!

If she was Mukuro, it wouldn’t be an issue and crushing him beneath her heel would be simple. However, as “Junko Enoshima” she had to maintain her position as a dimwitted, almost defenseless woman whose sharp tongue was her most deadly weapon.

With that in mind, she followed everyone else’s lead as they stared in utter shock at what Mondo had done. The delinquent himself actually seemed surprised as well, obviously not expecting Makoto to have flown back so far! And in this awkward silence, no one dared to see if the Ultimate Bike Gang Leader had just committed their first murder.

Mukuro watched them all carefully, wondering who would make the first move. Her eyes flicked around, gauging everyone. She had thought that Byakuya, his interest peaked now that something interesting had happened, would be the one to move first. However, he remained rooted in place, more than likely not willing to dirty his hands and check if the boy was still breathing.

Beyond that, Mukuro was also surprised that Sayaka didn’t appear to be moving. Even with her memory erased, she should still have remembered Makoto from their earlier days, and possibly might have been worried. But no, she also remained fixed in place, her hands covering her mouth in pure shock.

For a good two minutes, everyone remained still and Mukuro worried that, against her better judgment, she might have to step in just to keep the game going. She was trying not to stand out too much, but if no one checked to see if Makoto was alive, she knew that Junko would get bored and that wasn’t good for anyone. To that extent, she prepared to go and check on him when she suddenly noticed someone had beaten her too it.

Everyone was shocked as Kyoko Kirigiri bravely marched toward the unconscious boy and fearlessly placed her hands on his neck and wrist, obviously feeling for a pulse.

“Is…Is he…?” Sayaka finally found the courage to ask, barely taking a step forward as she inquired.

Shaking her head, Kyoko rose to her feet and turned around, folding her arms. Her glare focused entirely on Mondo as he continued to stand there, fearful of what he may have done.

“Please learn to control your temper. He’s lucky you didn’t kill him,” Kyoko’s icy voice pierced through the silence, sending a mixture of shock and relief through everyone present.

Underneath her disguise, Mukuro almost snickered. Makoto truly was ‘lucky’ that Mondo hadn’t hit him hard enough to kill him. But was that really the case? Being the Ultimate Lucky Student is what trapped Makoto here in the first place, but all it seemed like was that the boy simply had the worst luck in the world!

“Ironic really…” Mukuro thought to herself as she watched the scene unfold.


 

Finally breaking free of his paralyzing fear, Mondo’s face reddened as he shouted, “W-Well! He shouldn’t have gotten in the way! I didn’t have any problem with him until he started treating me like I was the one being an asshole!”

No one was surprised as the Ultimate Bike Gang Leader defended himself but they were shocked as Kyoko walked toward him and stood directly in front of him, taking his harsh glare without an ounce of fear in her.

“You let your pride get the better of you, it’s as simple as that. If you don’t learn to control your temper, you may actually end up killing someone.” Kyoko’s eyes narrowed and Mondo practically flinched as he registered her words.

In any other setting, her comment wouldn’t have brought much more than embarrassed anger. However, with the aspect of the killing game in effect, her choice of words took on a more frightful meaning. She was practically telling him that losing his cool and flying off the handle would lead to an early grave.

Still, he couldn’t deny how frustrating this whole situation made him and controlling his wild emotions wasn’t as easy as she insisted. And while he completely agreed with her, his pride wouldn’t allow himself to admit it.

Confident he understood her implications, Kyoko continued, “There are no doctors here and no one to help us if we get injured. We can’t afford to make reckless mistakes…especially when they can cost us our lives.”

For a minute, it appeared as if Mondo was about to explode in rage once more, gritting his teeth with his face reddening. However, much to everyone’s surprise, the Ultimate Bike Gang Leader let out a furious scoff before taking in a deep breath to calm himself. Exhaling slowly, he turned back to face Kyoko’s stern gaze.

“You’re right…sorry,” he hesitantly admitted, obviously not used to apologizing. “I’ll…uh, try to keep my temper under control.”

“Good,” Kyoko answered swiftly before turning back to the unconscious Makoto. “But we need to figure out what to do with him.”


 

Scratching his head, Yasuhiro frowned as he looked down at the unconscious boy.

“Wow, the guy at the top of the Academy must be pretty crazy to set up a stunt like this! But I’m sure they’ll call a doctor for the kid if we just leave him. I mean, they wouldn’t let anyone actually get hurt…right?”

He didn’t think that anyone would get hurt by this strange entrance exam but the Academy guys probably had everything under control. After all, they set up this whole thing, right? They were probably gonna jump out any moment and tell them it was all a show…that’s how it would go.

He was certain of it. All of this it had to be a lie…right?


 

“We could just, you know, leave him here,” Yasuhiro suggested, making everyone glare at him.

“We can’t do that!” Sayaka abruptly protested, moving over to Makoto and kneeling next to him. “We should at least try to find him a bed or something.”

“If I recall correctly, we all have an assigned room in the dorm area. Perhaps we could find his room and allow him to recover there?” suggested Celestia, a bored expression on her face.

Sayaka’s face lit up at that suggestion and she nodded firmly before grabbing hold of Makoto and trying to lift him. However, even though she was able to pull his arm over her shoulder, the moment she tried to stand and lift him, she lost her footing and fell to the floor.

“Ow…” she muttered, rubbing her knees.


 

Leon looked around at his classmates as they merely watched as she tried to lift a boy, who was clearly heavier than he looked, up off the ground.

“What the hell? Is no one else gonna help her?”

It wasn’t until she lost her footing and her knees harshly hit the floor that the red haired baseball player scoffed loudly and made his way over to her.


 

“Here, let me help.”

Before she could turn to see who was speaking, footsteps sounded behind her and she felt Makoto’s weight be lifted off her. Turning around abruptly, she found none other than Leon Kuwata hoisting the unconscious boy onto his back.

“It wouldn’t do to let a lady do all the heavy lifting,” Leon half-joked and half-flirted, winking at her as he adjusted his weight to carry Makoto easier. Turning to face everyone else, the Ultimate Baseball Star said, “Sayaka and I will take this guy to his room. Is that cool with you, Sayaka?”

Although initially stunned by his good-nature and suggestive comment, it didn’t take the Ultimate Pop Sensation long to smile brightly and nod firmly.

“Yeah, and thank you.”

Giving her a slightly cocky grin, Leon readjusted the boy on his back and answered, “Not a problem!”

Sayaka kind of wanted to sigh, knowing that Leon was being a little flirtatious. However, she couldn’t deny that she enjoyed his willingness to help her and found herself smiling cheerfully as she turned to face her fellow students.

“Alright then, we’ll take care of Makoto. The rest of you can get started without us.”

“Very well then! We shall begin our search of the school in the meantime!” Kiyotaka brazenly announced before turning and randomly assigning everyone places to search.


 

Leon and Sayaka quickly exited the gym, with Makoto in tow. Once they were gone, everyone began to spread out to fulfill their role in searching the building they were being held captive in.

Watching from afar, Mukuro found herself slightly impressed with all that had transpired. She never expected any of them to be willing to work together, especially after Byakuya’s distrustful attitude. But, it seems that both she and Junko underestimated Kyoko’s resolve. And it was as frustrating as it was fascinating.

Even after losing her memories, Kyoko Kirigiri still recalled exactly how to handle a body. Although that also meant that she could pose a problem down the line.

One of the reasons for blanking most of her mind was to keep the Ultimate Detective from solving each murder case as it came up. Not only that, Kyoko was the only one who was confident enough to stand up to anyone in the group, making her somewhat of a peace-keeper. That alone could derail all that the Despair sisters were trying to accomplish.

Even so, as she watched everyone begin to decide where they would search, Mukuro felt a strange stirring in her chest. Watching her classmates band together and vowing to find a way out reminded her of her days with Fenrir.

Strangers banding together to fight and survive, that is what the famed mercenary unit had truly been like. Mukuro never saw her fellow mercenaries as friends or family but she recognized their talents and indomitable spirits. And over time, she grew to trust them with her very life.

And, for a fraction of a second, as she stared at her determined classmate’s bold visage, she wondered if she could ever feel that way about everyone here…

Impossible…” Mukuro told herself silently, lowering her gaze to the floor “They’ll all be dead before long…and the despair will continue to spread to the entire world…just as it did with—”.

“Hey, Junko!”

It took Mukuro a moment to realize that someone was speaking to her. Immediately resuming her air-headed nature, she turned to see Asahina and Sakura approaching her. Instantly resuming her guise, she turned and raised an eyebrow at them.

“What’s up?” she said almost aimlessly, trying to appear absentminded.

“We were thinking it may be best to search in groups of three. That way, even if someone decided to do something…foolish, there would be another person there keep their intentions at bay,” Sakura announced, her muscular arms folded tightly over her chest.

“Oh,” Mukuro answered immediately, a bit surprised at the well thought out plan. “That sounds totally cool!”

Both Asahina and Sakura nodded to each other, pleased that their group was now complete. However, Mukuro had a very different reaction to this new arrangement.

Glancing out of the corner of her eye, the Ultimate Soldier briefly spotted Byakuya as he departed on his own. Silently, she wondered if his initial comment about wanting to travel alone had intentionally been used for this purpose. If he hadn’t mentioned it, then everyone would have gone off in pairs, thus allowing for the stronger students to pick off the weaker ones.

And although she highly doubted that it was his intention to avoid that situation, she also couldn’t deny that he seemed rather smug about something, evident by the grin she saw on his lips just before he disappeared from view. She made mental note to observe him more closely as, even with his memory wiped, he was still a most dangerous foe.

“Yeah, let’s get to searching! And since we still don’t know much about each other, it’ll be a great way for us to learn more about each other! I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be a model! You have to tell me your secrets!” Asahina enthusiastically shouted before rushing over to stand right in front of the disguised Mukuro.

The Ultimate Solider had to fight her reflexes as the swimmer girl grasped her hand and pulled her forward. All of her instincts told her to retract her hand and forcibly subdue Asahina but she successfully fought off that urging. Not only would that reveal too much about herself, she was certain that Sakura wouldn’t take kindly to it, either.

And more than that, something about this whole situation was beginning to excite Mukuro. Oddly enough, she knew that it wasn’t from all the despair her fellow classmates would soon be feelings. No, it was an odd sense of…belonging. A feeling of lightheartedness at being asked, or forced really, to spend time with the other female classmates.

And though Mukuro’s mind thought of this event as nothing more than an opportunity to study her classmates as her future foes, somewhere deep within her subconscious, she was looking forward to simply chatting with girls her age.

Gathering information is the first step to defeating your enemies,” Mukuro reminded herself as she and everyone else began to leave the gym. “And although I already know far more about them than they realize, it wouldn’t hurt to see exactly how much they can remember.

“Come on! Let’s get to searching!” the excited Asahina proclaimed as she practically dragged Mukuro from the room, Sakura only a few feet behind.


 

“A musician?!”

Sayaka almost lost her footing as she walked beside Leon on the way to Makoto’s room. Luckily, she caught herself without missing a step but the sudden movement drew the attention of the Ultimate Baseball Star.

“Yeah…is that so weird?” Leon asked, almost as if he was silently asking for permission.

In an instant, Sayaka realized that the normally laid-back and cheeky Leon was being completely serious for once. He’d been subtly flirting with her a few moments ago, inviting her to get something to drink with him after they dropped of Makoto, but then he sprung this on her. Honestly, she didn’t know the best way to react.

“I’m just surprised,” she answered honestly, trying not to sound apathetic. “I suppose there’s nothing wrong with wanting to change your title.”

She watched as her words brought a goofy and reassured grin to Leon’s face. “Yeah! That’s right! I have no reason to be ashamed or worried about not wanting to play baseball anymore! I’m here to follow my dream of being the world’s greatest Musician!”

Strangely, it seemed that he was more trying to convince himself than her. Sayaka felt her chest tighten as she watched her classmate continue on toward the dorms, smiling like an idiot who had no worries.

However, the Ultimate Pop Sensation had lost all interest in smiling at the moment. She had been in the music industry for quite a long time and knew how difficult and disastrous it could be. Even at her young age, she’d seen so many people with dreams like Leon’s be crushed underfoot, leaving them a broken shell of who they used to be.

And for some reason, she didn’t want that to happen to Leon. He have been be a bit annoying, with all his flirtatious comments, but he seemed like a genuinely nice person. Watching a person as sweet and naïve as him go down this path, only for him to eventually become heartbroken and empty, wasn’t something she could allow herself to do.

Sayaka had experienced that feeling of brokenness once herself, at the start of her career when no one would even give her an audition. No one encouraged her or even tried to comfort her. They all abandoned her and she had to find the strength to continue on by herself. It was a dark and nightmarish time in her life and honestly, she didn’t believe that anyone should have to feel that kind of despair.

Not even the foolishly optimistic Leon Kuwata.

To that effect, she felt as if she needed to test Leon, see how serious he was about this dream of his and if he could handle the pressure of living that kind of life. It wasn’t something just anyone could deal with. It required being merciless to your competition and doing anything…anything, just to get noticed.

Even if it meant utterly destroying a fellow singer’s dreams and aspirations.

Sayaka knew that better than anyone. After all, she had personally destroyed a number of people’s lives in the pursuit of the same dream. And if he wasn’t prepared to do the same…the industry would tear him to pieces!

“So, why do you want to be a musician?” she asked carefully as they rounded a corner and headed toward the entrance to the dorms. “It’s not just to impress the girls, is it?”

Flinching as if she’d hit the nail on the head, Leon laughed nervously and grinned at her. “N-No way! I wouldn’t do something as petty as that! I’d just stay with baseball if that’s all I wanted!”

Although his logic did make a great deal of sense, Sayaka wasn’t fooled. She knew Leon was someone who craved attention but this was downright idiotic! However, seeing as he was rather talented in his own field, it wasn’t inconceivable that he’d be able to play music if he was passionate about it.

To that extent, she smiled at him and continued, “I was just kidding. But does that mean you can play an instrument and sing pretty well?”

Hearing that, Leon’s grin widened even more as he answered, “I actually play the guitar and even though I only started playing it a few months ago, I think I’m a natural! And though I’ve never actually taken a singing lesson, I just know that my voice is made for the stage!”

Almost immediately, Sayaka’s eyes narrowed at his comment. In other words, he had absolutely no experience playing or singing. Disgust rose up in her as she wanted to scream at him for being such an idiot but she managed to control herself.

Many great singers and musician didn’t start out as great as they became. Perhaps Leon would be like them and he just needed time, and an experience coach, to get him ready for it. However, something about his dismissive and lazy attitude told her that even if he did go for it, he might become bored and quit long before he even had a chance to get on stage.

However, she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and instead asked, “Okay then, why doyou want to become a musician? You know it’ll be a lot of hard work, right?”

Sayaka made sure she was being very serious with him. She wanted him to know that it wasn’t going to be as easy as he imagined and that she, as the Ultimate Pop Sensation, was trying to get him to realize that. Luckily, it seemed that he was slowly beginning to understand her subtle warning.

“Uh, well…” he hesitated at first, seeming rather nervous for the first time since they’d left the gym. “I suppose it’s because I like the idea of it all, you know? Going around to different places, playing music for people and making everyone have a good time!”

That comment actually confused Sayaka even more. How was that any different from what he was doing as a baseball player? He went to different places, excited the crowds and played the game well enough that everyone always enjoyed watching him. As far as she could tell, being a musician and being a sports star was practically the same thing to him!

Only that the latter was less emotionally draining, as all you had to do was hit a ball and run! He already had all the attention he wanted and everyone who watched him play loved him. He was practically a celebrity and had the carefree life he seemed to so desperately want.

And yet, for some reason, he was unhappy with achieving it through baseball. What did being a musician offer him that playing baseball couldn’t?

With that in mind, she asked, “So then, what got you interested in music anyway?” Her question was polite but rife with a need to understand his reasoning. “I mean, you don’t really seem the type, being the Ultimate Baseball Star and all—”.

“And that’s the problem,” he interrupted her, stopping suddenly and turning toward her. “I never wanted to be a baseball star. I’ve always hated that stupid sport. I only used it to get into Hope’s Peak so I could try and change my status. Once we get out of here, I’m quitting, cold turkey!”

Genuine shock overtook Sayaka’s face as she heard her classmate, a boy who had never had a bad game or even failed to hit any pitch thrown at him, openly deny his own talent. He had been blessed with a gift that most people would kill to have and all he could feel was resentment for it.

Didn’t he understand how fortunate he was?! Could he not see that he had it better than so many people his age?! He never had to fight and struggle to obtain his title, it all came naturally! He could have the life he wanted, making a crowd happy and just reveling in the popularity of being a sports sensation!

But instead, he foolishly wanted to go into music! A career that he didn’t take seriously and thought he could make it in only because he wanted it! He didn’t even realize how much you had to sacrifice just to get one single show! He had no respect for the business and barely any for himself! And he thought he could become a famous punk rocker!

And the thing that was the most infuriating…was that Leon had the gall to smirk as if he was proud of himself for being such a fool!

Sayaka’s eyes darkened as she glared at Leon’s back, her hands balled into fists. If she had a blunt object in her hands, she would have been tempted to crack it over his overconfident head! Just as she was getting ready to give him a piece of her mind, she saw him come to a stop just outside the entrance to the dorms.

A bit shocked, she could only stand there as he turned around to look at her. To her utter surprise, he wore an incredibly nervous expression but attempted to hide it with a smirk as he stared at her for a moment.

“So…do you think you could give me some pointers?” he abruptly asked, obviously not comfortable asking such a thing. “I-I mean, you’re obviously way better at that kinda stuff and I thought that…maybe you and I could try, like, singing a duet or something?”

All at once, all of the rage that had built up in Sayaka vanished. She finally realized why Leon had come to help her with Makoto before anyone else. He wanted to talk to her about this, about his dream to be a musician…and he wanted to ask for her help.

The proud, stubborn, overly confident Leon Kuwata was actually asking for her help to achieve his dream.

Whether he would ever know it or not, the mere fact that he had gone so far just to ask for her assistance really impressed her. Sure, he was practically blindly rushing into the music business on what seemed like a selfish whim, but at the very least he knew enough to ask for help from someone who actually was in the music industry.

It didn’t change the fact that he was being an utter fool, but at the very least he was passionate and determined to follow his dream.

And even though she should have declined him, crushed his dreams here before he had a chance to feel the pain of having his aspirations be trampled, in that moment, Sayaka just couldn’t refuse him.

Against her better judgment, she smiled as brightly as she always did and replied, “Sure! I’d love to help you sometime!”

Although shocked, Leon felt a surge of joy as he registered her answer. “S-Seriously! You’ll help me out?!”

Sayaka nodded to him with a smile before hardening her features and saying, “But bear in mind that I’m a strict teacher. And if I don’t think you’re cut out for it, I won’t hesitate to tell you. Do you think you can handle that?”

Seeing her so serious stopped the Ultimate Baseball Star for a moment, realizing that she was not going to pamper him simply because of who he was. However, that didn’t seem to deter him in the least, as he recovered an instant later and grinned back at her firmly.

“I can take whatever you throw at me! I won’t let you down! I promise!” he excitedly proclaimed, assuring her that he understood.

A light chuckle escaped Sayaka as she answered, “Alright then, it’s a deal.”

Leon’s face lit up with pure excitement and he couldn’t help the enthusiastic shout that followed. Because of that, he almost dropped Makoto but managed to catch him before the unconscious boy fell from his shoulders.

Readjusting himself, Leon grinned happily at Sayaka before saying, “Alright then! Let’s get this guy to his room so we can start looking for a way out of here! And maybe later, we can get some practice in!”

“…Right.”

Leon barely noticed her lackluster answer as he increased his pace and headed through the entrance to the dorms. He didn’t notice that Sayaka lingered behind for a moment, a melancholy expression on her face.

Mentally, she scolded herself for giving in to him and offering to help. She was convinced that he wouldn’t cut it as a musician and by hiding her opinion from him, he was only going to be that much more disappointed when she told him the truth.

However, seeing his smiling face, so vibrant and full of happiness, she couldn’t bring herself to deny him. And in a weird way, she didn’t really want to refuse him anyway. She actually wanted to help him, wanted to try and help another entertainer rise to fame…instead of utterly destroying their hopes and dreams.

However, that is what made the decision all the more difficult for her. She could already tell that Leon was far too kind and laid-back to be able to succeed in the industry. All he wanted was a free ride that would be fun and attention grabbing, something to get more people to notice him. And while he wasn’t necessary a bad person for wanting that, it did revive a hint of her previous anger toward him.

“Don’t get into the entertainment industry with such frivolous thoughts…Leon Kuwata!” she whispered to herself.

One student does not have the will to kill:

-Makoto Naegi-

14 students ‘remain’


Chapter Text

Ch.1

Act 2

“Okay then, we’ll see you tomorrow at the food court!” Asahina shouted as she and Sakura began walking away from ‘Junko’s’ room.

“I’ll totally be there! Laters!” the disguised Mukuro replied, waving her hand enthusiastically to hide her growing need to be separated from them.

Before either of the girls were out of sight, Mukuro swiftly unlocked her door and stepped inside, closing the door shut and immediately locking it. Making sure it was bolted tightly, the Ultimate Soldier let out a sigh before turning around. It wasn’t any kind of fear that made her lock the door. Rather, she was certain that ‘someone’ would want to speak with her the moment she entered her new dwelling.

And just as she predicted, as she walked into the main area of her room, she found Monokuma playfully juggling an assortment of combat knifes.

“Welcome home!” the bear proclaimed, barely taking its eyes from the difficult task. “Are your accommodations to your liking, dear sister?”

Hearing Monokuma address her so flippantly, Mukuro folded her arms and glared down at the automaton.

“So, I’m not required to keep up the act when I’m alone with you?” the Ultimate Soldier questioned, feeling that her sister was testing her again.

Junko often said, and did, contradictory things, mostly to combat her constant boredom. But there was more to it than that. The despair loving twin simply adored pushing people to their limits, testing the very reaches of their sanity, and her own sister was no exception. In fact, Mukuro found her sister ‘testing’ her more often than any other.

For the most part, Mukuro didn’t blame her. After all, the Ultimate Soldier had practically abandoned her once before, joining Fenrir without even speaking to her sister about it. It was only natural that Junko would wish to be certain her sister wouldn’t betray her again. Even though Junko hid it rather well, the older twin knew that her younger sister did truly care for her and didn’t want anything to come between them again.

Because of that, Mukuro knew she would do almost anything for her sister. After all, Junko was all she had left in the world; especially after all they’d done in the last few months. She had destroyed the only place she could have called home…all for the sake of her sister’s ambition of world-wide despair.

A deep chuckle escaped Monokuma and as it did, the voice resounding from the automaton shifted and became more and more feminine and familiar. Soon, only Junko’s almost-mocking tone came through the bear’s mouth. However, the bear still continued to juggle the deadly blades all the while.

“Oh, Mukuro, why would you need to keep up the charade here? The one place where none of our classmates can hear us? Or do you really think so little of your own sister?”

Another test, like so many others Mukuro had endured before. Luckily, it seemed that this was a simple one and she already understood her sister’s meaning. With little more than a huff, the Ultimate Soldier unclipped the hairpins beneath the pink haired wig and pulled the almost suffocatingly huge lock of pink from her head.

Running a hand through her slick, sweaty black hair, Mukuro set the mass of pink fluff on its wig form on her nearby dresser.

“I’m just surprised, is all. I know how desperate you are to keep your identity hidden,” the black haired twin chided, before a glint of light flashed at her.

Her reflexes kicked in and her hand shot up and grasped an object that had been speeding toward her face, stopping it only moments before it would have grazed her cheek.

Mukuro’s sky-blue eyes narrowed as her hand slowly retracted and she glared at Monokuma. Clutched tightly in her palm was one of the combat knives the bear had been juggling only a few moments ago, the rest lying scattered on the floor at the bear’s feet.

“Impressive,” Junko’s voice spoke through the bear, “I’m glad to see that you’re still as spry as ever.”

Even though she couldn’t see her, Mukuro was certain that her sister was grinning at her. And despite the fact that she should have been more angry with her sister for throwing the knife, the Ultimate Soldier couldn’t help but smirk at her sister’s aggressive jest.

Junko knew that something as weak as that would never be able to take her sister down. There was a reason Mukuro still had perfect skin, free of scars, bruises and blemishes. She could see an attack coming a mile away. And Monokuma’s obnoxious juggling of the deadly blades had been the clearest giveaway. Even a civilian could have predicted the oncoming attack.

Flipping the knife up and gripping the tip with two fingers, Mukuro snapped her wrist toward the bear and sent the knife flying back at it. Monokuma almost seemed to tense as the blade whizzed past his head and became deeply embedded into the wall behind him. Slowly turning its head back, the bear stared at the knife for a moment before snapping back toward the Ultimate Soldier.

“Hey! Watch it with those! You almost violated the rules and attacked the Headmaster!” Junko shouted, changing her vocal tone to sound more like Monokuma without actually switching back to the bear’s voice. “And the punishment for harming the Headmaster…is death!”

A light chuckle escaped Mukuro for half a second, believing this to be a joke. However, an instant later, she took in the nasty glare Monokuma was giving her. As if she could see through the bear’s eyes, she could have sworn that Junko was glaring at her just as fiercely. The Ultimate Soldier fought the fear that began to seize up her entire body, a deep frown settling in on her face.

Junko has spoken at length about how the rules of the game would need to be enforced, but she failed to mention if those rules applied to herself and Mukuro as well. The black haired twin had assumed that since they were in control of the situation, they were above the rules…but perhaps she was mistaken.

She began to wonder if possibly, just maybe, if that knife had hit Monokuma…would she face ‘punishment’? Would her sister truly enforce the rules on her as well? Even though she was needed to realize Junko’s plans of bringing ultimate despair to the students? Was her life in as much danger as her classmates?

As her complexion paled and her frown slipped into a worried expression, the sound of her sister’s laughter shattered her thoughts.

Mukuro was shocked as she swore that Junko’s laughter sounded positively jovial…which was practically unthinkable! There was always a darker and more sinister tone to her chuckles or giggles but there wasn’t a hint of that now! It wasn’t until the laughter slowly subsided into a few amused huffs that this oddity was made clear to her.

“That’s hilarious!” Junko’s voice called out as Monokuma pointed at Mukuro, “The look on your face was priceless! Oh…I haven’t laughed that hard in years!”

Another spontaneous bout of feminine laughter roared from the mechanical bear and Mukuro found herself breathing a huge sigh of relief.

The Ultimate Soldier shook her head and let a melancholy smile overtake her lips. This had just been another of Junko’s tests. And it seemed that, even though she apparently failed, her sister was more than amused with the situation. But more than that, it put Mukuro’s mind at ease, knowing that her sister had only been playing mind games with her, as she always did.

“I’m pleased I could bring you some amusement,” Mukuro said swiftly as she moved over to the bed and sat down, feeling exhausted from the long day.

All at once, the sound of Junko’s laugh ceased and Monokuma looked up at her as she sat there.

“Anyway, you spent a lot of time with Milk Jugs and the Ogre. Did you manage to find out anything useful?” Junko asked through the bear, amusing herself by giving nicknames to her former classmates.

It kept her increasingly deadly boredom at bay, and Mukuro was pleased that, so far, the game was entertaining her sister enough for her not to interfere.

One of the greatest threats to this game was actually Junko’s flippant personality. She technically could shut off the air purifier at any time and kill them all, if she decided that the game was becoming too boring for her. Mukuro was fairly certain it wouldn’t come to that, but then again, considering that the reason Junko decided to host the Mutual Killing Game was to alleviate her boredom, it wasn’t inconceivable.

Sure, the game served the purpose of spreading more despair, but the original intent had simply been to give Junko something to distract herself from her own “lameness”, as she called it. In addition, it fed her need to be surrounded by despair…almost drowning in it as she would watch her former classmates attempt to kill each other in a live broadcast.

Because of this, Mukuro remembered that there had indeed been a purpose to her accepting the girls’ invitation earlier. Junko had instructed her to gather any information she could out of their classmates, to see how much their personalities would change without certain memories. Not only that, she also wanted to see how much they remembered about their school lives. As in, if they remembered anything at all, it would pose a problem. Plus, she also wished to gauge who among them might be more easily manipulated, if need be.

And that information would hopefully be enough to sate Junko’s thirst for something that didn’t bore her.

“There wasn’t much to garner from either Sakura or Asahina, aside from them rekindling their friendship almost immediately,” Mukuro explained, standing up and beginning to move toward the make-up dresser that Junko had gifted her with.

“Lame. But that makes sense. Those two became friends almost immediately after they met the first time. So, no surprise there,” Junko answered through Monokuma, the bear waddling after her sister. “What about the time you spent in the dining hall with everyone? Learn anything interesting?”

“From what I’ve gathered, none of them have any recollection of the two years we all spent together. It seems that the Memory Eraser you perfected worked just as expected,” Mukuro continued, sitting down at the stool in front of the dresser.

“Well, of coooourse it worked perfectly! We couldn’t have the damn thing screwing up like it did the first time!” the voice of Junko responded before falling eerily silent, although Mukuro knew why.

Junko absolutely refused to even mention the time she had spent as Ryoko Otonashi. Whether it was because it was the single most embarrassing moment of her life, because her amnesiac state made her embrace hope rather than despair; or because it brought up memories of someone that she actually wished to forget, no one could be sure.

Either way, Mukuro didn’t wish to discuss the matter any further. It had been a hard time for her too, believing she had lost her sister to a memory wipe that she agreed to.

And ever since regaining her memories and murdering the Ultimate Neurologist, Junko had been changed. She was still the despair-addicted woman she’d always been, but something far more twisted had awoken. And although she wasn’t sure what it was, Mukuro knew it had to do with the despair her sister had reveled in as she had killed the only man she could ever have loved.

Pushing that thought away for the moment, the Ultimate Soldier cleared her throat and continued, “In any case, there wasn’t much to gleam from most of the students. The only exception would be Taeko Yasuhiro, or rather, Celestia Ludenberg. She imposed a night-time rule upon everyone, even though most of them believe they agreed to it willingly. She’s a frighteningly intelligent adversary—”.

“I already know all that. Or did you forget I’ve been watching?” Junko cut her off as Monokuma pointed to the camera, her tone rife with disappointment. “I want to know if you found a suitable…target, for the first murder.”

Simply using the word ‘target’ was enough to get Mukuro’s attention. The Ultimate Soldier couldn’t help the rush of excitement that abruptly coursed through her veins.

“Out of all of them, the one who will break first and try to ‘Graduate’, will undoubtedly be Celestia Ludenberg,” Mukuro answered with utter conviction as she picked up a sheet of make-up remover.

Monokuma tilted its head at her response. “Oh? I’m surprised you’d think that. Especially considering that we haven’t revealed the first motive to them yet.”

Feeling confident for the first time since the game began, Mukuro rubbed off the layers of foundation that caked her face as she continued, “Celeste is the Ultimate Gambler and the one who is the most desperate to get out of here. She knows the risks and will evaluate them accordingly, but she also doesn’t believe she can lose. Not to mention her initiative of installing the nighttime rule, which will allow her to move around freely during the evening.”

“Hmm. Hmm.” Monokuma nodded its head in understanding before lifting a hand up to silence her. “I have no doubt that ‘Celestia Ludenberg’ will attempt to Graduate at some point. However, she’s far too careful to let herself fall into the trap of being the first murderer.”

Finishing expunging the make-up from her freckled face, Mukuro turned toward the automaton with a raised brow.

“Why do you say that?” she questioned, pulling the loose tie around her neck over her head and tossing it aside. Monokuma’s eyes flickered to the discarded accessory for but a moment before settling back in on Mukuro.

“Victory isn’t something she leaves to chance and there are too many things she doesn’t know, including most of the conditions of this game. Because of that, she’s going to let someone make those mistakes for her, so that she can learn from their failures and perfect a method of committing her own crime without raising suspicion.”

Resting a hand on her chin, the Ultimate Soldier considered her sister’s observation.

“That is a definite possibility. But if not her, then I can’t imagine who might be tempted to commit murder. As far as they know, the world outside is just as it was before the World’s Most Despair Inducing Incident. Because of that, none of our classmates truly have the will to kill. At least not yet,” she speculated aloud, waiting for her sister’s input.

“Are you so sure?” Junko implicated, the menacing grin on Monokuma’s face giving away her glee. “Trapped in a building they don’t recognize, with total strangers that could slaughter them in their sleep; combined with the knowledge that they may never see their family and friends again, it makes for a quite a desperate plea to leave…by any means necessary.”

Now it was Mukuro’s turn to huff. “All of them still believe the world is as it used to be. Meaning that they still believe the act of murder will be met with harsh punishment. And aside from Byakuya, none of them believe they could get away with it. The lack of knowledge is acting as a deterrent for them.”

“But if that’s true, what about Byakuya Togami?” Junko immediately countered with skepticism, “Your theory doesn’t apply to him, considering he still believes his family controls the world from behind the scenes. Doesn’t that make him the most susceptible to giving into the temptation?”

That stopped Mukuro for a moment, but it didn’t last long before she shrugged nonchalantly

“It would, if he was motivated enough to leave here immediately. At present, however, he seems far more interested in the situation he’s found himself in. And until he is given a proper motive that outweighs his curiosity, I can safely speculate that he will continue to be nothing more than an observer until he finds the perfect time to attempt his ‘graduation’.”

“That’s true, I suppose. A proper motive is the key to everything,” was Junko’s only response, strangely quiet as her sister kept speaking.

“Celeste, on the other hand, desires to leave more than anyone else,” Mukuro said plainly, earning a curious gaze from the automaton bear.

“I’m surprised you came to that conclusion. Her façade of encouraging everyone to adapt almost fooled me…until I saw her rampaging in her room, flinging her pillow and kicking the walls out of sheer fury at being forced to stay here,” Junko spoke through the bear.

A confident smirk crept over Mukuro’s lips as she answered, “It’s precisely because she puts on such a façade that she gives herself away. Besides, her advice on adapting to her surrounding is more for herself than for the others. Like a child desperate to convince an adult that they didn’t steal the last cookie or something to that effect.”

Mukuro expected her sister to counter her, perhaps provide a different theory on who might attempt to ‘graduate’ first. But much to her shock, Junko opted to remain silent, something she rarely ever did. Although perturbed by the new silence, the Ultimate Soldier decided it was best to finish explaining herself.

Moving closer to her bed, Mukuro tugged at the collar of her shirt to cool down before she continued.

“To that extent, Celeste would still desperately hold onto her dream of having the European castle with vampire-esk servants. If she was Taeko instead of Celeste, I wouldn’t think she’d be capable of turning on everyone. But since she’s forgotten the level of trust she put in everyone to keep her name secret…then out of all of our classmates, she’s the one who has the highest susceptibility to giving in to the pressure of ‘Graduation’.”

“Hmm. Hmm,” Monokuma nodded, as if conceding a point before Junko’s voice said, “Then, would you like to make a bet on it? I’m dying to know whose gonna crack first and a little wager is just the thing to tide me over.”

Mukuro gulped on reflex, realizing that her sister was already becoming bored with their little killing game. If she was already having to invent little events like this to entertain herself, then it wouldn’t be long before Junko decided to interfere with the game…personally.

Hiding her anxiety with a smirk, Mukuro shook her head and answered, “I’m afraid not. Unlike you or Celeste, I have no interest in gambling. Besides, isn’t the idea of betting on an unsuspecting person’s life more than enough to bring you despair?”

“Upupupupupupu! That’s interesting! I never considered that!” Junko announced, imitating Monokuma’s signature laugh.

“I’m sure you didn’t,” a disbelieving Mukuro muttered under her breath but said no more. For the time being, she’d pervaded her sister boredom and shifted the conversation to keep her entertained.

Taking a moment to unbutton her blouse, she pulled the top half of her outfit from her shoulders and let it fall to the floor. Unhooking the clip on her short skirt, the Ultimate Soldier shed the garment and was left only in her undergarments – the lacy bra and pretty pink panties her sister had assigned her to wear.

Letting a relived sigh escape her as she plopped down on the bed near Monokuma, Mukuro stared up at the ceiling for a moment before she heard her sister calling out to her.

“So, how did it feel?” Junko abruptly asked, making her sister turn toward the bear.

“How did what feel?” Mukuro said with a raised brow, to which she received a scoff.

Hopping up onto the bed and spinning around to stare at her, Monokuma continued to speak for Junko, “The despair, the despair, silly! The despair at being completely forgotten by all of your former friends and having to develop a persona that you have little to no experience understanding? How is the despair of being erased from this world?!”

For a moment, Mukuro didn’t speak…No, she couldn’t speak.

Until those words reached her ears, not once had the Ultimate Soldier even considered the implications of what her sister had said. She hadn’t even registered that her existence had, for all intensive purposes, been erased. She had so completely thrown herself into the role of Junko that she had failed to realize that she had effectively killed Mukuro.

The Ultimate Soldier had willingly severed ties with her former friends, the mercenary unit that she’d called family, the school she’d called home, and now even her true self; all to fulfill her little sister’s desires. However, it wasn’t until this very moment that she realized that she had, of her own free will, discarded all of the things that made her into who she was today.

Only now did a deep pain sting in her chest as she fully comprehended what she’d done.

And even though she knew she couldn’t hide it, Mukuro still put on a stern and unaffected visage as she answered, “Honesty, I never thought of it until now. So, this is the despair of being completely cut off from you own identity…”

“Exciting! Isn’t it?!” Junko’s voice resonated from Monokuma as the bear hopped up and down with utter glee.

“Exciting? Is that what I’m feeling?” Mukuro asked herself as her sister’s words sank in. “No…no, that’s not it. This isn’t excitement or any kind of joy. It’s more like…a feeling of… emptiness…”

A deep hollow pressure ached in Mukuro’s chest as the despair began to engulf her. Her sister had described this feeling to her before, this pain that came from deep within and threatened to consume you. However, something was missing from her sister’s explanation…

Junko had spoke of a feeling of unparalleled ecstasy that would give the body and mind more pleasure than you could possibly imagine. It sounded heavenly and Mukuro indeed wished to experience it. She had joined Fenrir in pursuit of this and fought through so much hope to reach despair. And yet, even now when she was threatened with non-existence and despair closed in on her…she felt only the pain and none of the pleasure.

Why, then, was it not coming to her? Why had it never come to her, no matter how much despair she inflicted on herself and others? Why was she denied that immeasurable feeling of excitement and contentment when her sister could revel in it practically every day?!

“I see that you’re enjoying yourself,” Junko’s voice resonated through the half and half bear, filled to the brim with a mixture of elation and jealousy. “I wish I could be the one to be forgotten, unloved, throw away like filthy garbage! Ahhh, just imagining it sends shiiiivers down my spine!”

Mukuro’s teeth sank hard into her lower lip, a trickle of blood emerging a moment later as she fought to keep from breaking. She wanted nothing more than to question what her sister found so pleasurable about this but knew the consequences of such a foolish action. If her sister discovered that she felt absolutely no satisfaction while in the throes of despair, then it would only serve to give Junko yet another method to torture her with.

And more horrifying, it would utterly disappoint her despair loving sister and Mukuro would do anything to keep that from happening.

Swallowing the guilt and pain, the Ultimate Soldier widened her lips into a lustful grin as she said, “Ahhh, this…despair! It’s more than I ever imagined…I…Ahhhhh…”

Shame overtook Mukuro as she was forced to fake arousal at this monumental agony. She wrapped her hands around her semi-nude body and gripped herself tightly, a hint of drool mixed with blood running down her chin. Her fake crimson nails dug deep into her sides, holding in the torment as best she could while keeping up appearances.

However, it seemed that her actions had been successful as Monokuma chuckled to itself before it leapt off the bed and began waddling toward the door.

“I’ll leave you to your business,” Junko’s voice echoed in the room as the bear approached the door. “You deserve some private time…”

A momentary feeling of relief washed over Mukuro as she heard that, ready to end the charade. However, as Monokuma reached the door and stood on its toes to reach the handle, he abruptly spun around and extended its claws menacingly.

“I certainly hope you enjoy this despair to its fullest. You may not have time to revel in it for much longer,” the voice of Junko warned as the bear angrily stared toward Mukuro.

The harsh and deep jealousy in Junko’s voice sent a fearsome chill down the Ultimate Soldier’s spine.

“W-What do you mean—?”

“Sorry! No more time! Gotta go!” Monokuma cut her off sharply, suddenly returning to his usual cutesy bear voice. Opening the door and slipping out, the demented bear stuck its head in one last time to say, “And just to let you know…I enjoyed your little performance tonight and can’t wait to see what you’ll do next!”

Mukuro froze at those words, unable to move a single muscle. The implication the bear had just spoken left her breathless as she tried, in vain, to assure herself that her sister hadn’t seen through her ruse, hadn’t discovered that the despair she was feeling caused her nothing but agony and pain.

And in all honestly, she wasn’t even sure if Junko cared if she had felt that pleasure in the first place. The maniacal grin on Monokuma’s face reflected how elated her sister had to be at that moment and it was in this state of humiliation that Mukuro realized that she had just failed another of Junko’s tests.

Before she could say a word, Monokuma slid out of the room and slammed the door loudly, leaving the distraught and shaken Mukuro to wallow in the despair of uncertainty and fear.


 

“What…what the hell is this?”

Kyoko sat on the bed in her room, her face wrapped in confusion as she stared down at her hands. Her gloves unceremoniously tossed aside in shock, she felt bile rising up in her throat at the sight of the horrific burns that covered every inch of her hands.

She rubbed her charred skin with her singed fingertips but didn’t wince in pain. In fact, it felt numb to the touch, as if her hands could run over anything and not feel even a tingling sensation.

“…At least these wounds aren’t recent,” she surmised as she continued to examine her damaged hands. Strangely, the more she investigated, the calmer she began to feel.

Judging by the extent of the scarred tissue, it was obvious that her hands had suffered third degree burns, possibly even worse. The damage was extensive but didn’t seem to hinder her mobility much, flexing her fingers as quickly as possible to test the severity of nerve damage. More than likely, these wounds were treated not long after being inflicted, or else there would have been more hindrances.

Unable to tear her eyes away from the horrific burns, a single thought was burned into her mind.

“How…could I ever forget this?”


 

Over the course of the next few days, everyone spread out into their own separate groups to investigate the school. Being limited to only the first floor, everyone became familiar with the layout of the school rather quickly. However, that also showed them how small their world truly was.

Despite that, everyone was determined to keep their hopes up by preoccupying themselves with something or another. Behind her guise as “Junko”, Mukuro watched on as her classmates prepared for an ordeal they had no idea how to handle.

She watched Makoto, being led around by Sayaka as his ‘assistant’, take a decorative sword back to his room. She overheard Yamada requesting to be named the one to take out the trash, for ulterior motives no doubt. She observed Leon, Kiyotaka and Mondo as they continued to test the doors and windows, hoping to find a weakness.

At one point, due to keeping up appearances, Mukuro had a cup of tea with Celeste and they were soon joined by Sakura and Asahina, who couldn’t find anything useful to help them escape. She held back a groan of discontent as Yasuhiro continued to foolishly believe the whole ordeal was merely a joke arranged by the school.

In fact, the only people she seemed to see so little of were Kyoko, who spent her time off alone and possibly investigating the school, Byakuya, who elected to stay as far away from the others as possible, and Toko, who mainly stayed within her room unless called upon.

Due to the lack of motivation her fellow classmates had to give into murderous temptation, Mukuro found herself becoming quite anxious and decided to separate herself from her classmates for a time. To that extent, she decided to spend her time in the laundry room today, washing her unmentionables that she felt uncomfortable wearing.

All the while, Mukuro couldn’t stop thinking about her sister’s words from that night:

“I wish I could be the one to be forgotten, unloved, throw away like filthy garbage!”

Simply recalling the memories of those words cut her to the core. The strange thing was, she wasn’t quite sure why. She had willingly chosen the path of despair, betrayed all who trusted her to follow after her sister’s ambition. She was one of the Ultimate Despair Sisters, she should be reveling in all the lovely despair surrounding her.

Instead, all she could feel was that suffocating pressure in her chest that made her want to scream with frustration. To make matters worse, the notion of being completely forgotten had never upset her until Junko mentioned it.

“Dammit…why did she have to bring that up now?” the Ultimate Solder whispered to herself. “If she had just kept quiet…then maybe…”

Mukuro sulked as she knew the answer to her own question. She hadn’t felt any such despair since the Mutual Killing Game began, having been too busy throwing herself into the role of ‘Junko Enoshima’. Obviously, her sister didn’t want her to forget the reason they were going through so much trouble.

They were the only ones capable of spreading Ultimate Despair to the world…and to each other. It was a duty that only she and Junko could accomplish. She should feel proud of her work…but she didn’t! Bringing despair to anyone, even herself, brought no such feelings of accomplishment or pride…only that crushing pressure that threatened to consume her.

Just like the laundry spinning in the machine before her, there were so many questions piled up in her mind, swirling around in a flurry of unexplainable frustration. Watching her wet clothes slosh against each other, she did her best to conceal her rage as she felt her mind going in even more circles than the laundry.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the washer dinged and the spinning clothes came to an abrupt stop. However, unlike the laundry, Mukuro wasn’t finished discovering the answer to her questions and for some unexplainable reason, she felt as if the washer was mocking her.

“Dammit all!!” she shouted as something inside her snapped.

Without thinking, she slammed her fist into the window of the washing machine, the loud clacking echoing all around the small room.

She breathed heavily through gritted teeth as she seethed, “Why is this happening to me?! I never asked for any of this crap! Why the hell do I have to be feeling like—?!”

“H-Hey, Junko…?”

Mukuro’s eyes bulged and she quickly spun around to see Makoto Naegi standing in the doorway. As she would expect, he wore a nervous smile that did little to hide his concern.

Immediately she resumed her sister’s flippant persona and said, “What?! Can’t you see I’m busy?!”

She almost cursed again as she realized she couldn’t control her anger and was lashing out in a way that, if Makoto had recalled the real Junko, he’d have been able to see through her guise. Luckily for her, the herbivore boy merely flinched at her words before cautiously inching his way into the laundry room.

“Y-Yeah, I can see that but…I heard a loud bang and thought that, you know, something might be wrong…?” he answered carefully, obviously trying not to probe too far into her business.

Mukuro gritted her teeth and averted her gaze. Of course Makoto would come running if he thought someone was in trouble. Even though he could barely defend himself if need be, he still found ways to butt into other people’s business.

It might have been endearing, if it wasn’t so incredibly reckless and stupid.

Forcing herself to be composed, the disguised girl took a deep breath before letting out an even deeper sigh. She shouldn’t have been surprised that nosey, friendly, Makoto would be the one to find her like this. After all, he had a knack for being in the wrong place at the right time.

“Right, that makes sense. I guess I was being a bit too loud,” she shamefully admitted, hoping that statement was enough to satisfy him.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

“So, what happened? Did you throw a red sock in with your whites?” Makoto purposefully joked, giving one of his signature pleasant smiles.

“…Something like that,” she grunted, keeping her eyes away from him. “What do you want anyway?”

Nervously scratching his head, Makoto answered, “I, uh, just wanted to see if everything was okay.”

“Well, I’m fine. Are we done here?” she dropped another hint at wanting to be left alone but he didn’t seem to register it.

“Actually, I was kind of hoping we could…you know, talk for a bit. Get to know each other and stuff,” he hopefully suggested, obviously not accustomed to asking to talk with other people.

If she wasn’t in the position she was in, she might have appreciated this trite attempt at cheering her up. However, at the moment, his upbeat and pleasant attitude only grated on her nerves.

Didn’t he realize how desperate his situation was? Was he really so stupid enough to put his faith in people he had ‘just met’ the other day? And did he honestly believe that no one was willing to kill to get out of his hell hole?!

Strangely enough, she got her answer to these questions quicker than she would have thought.

“I know it can’t be easy for someone like you to be cooped up here. I mean, it’s not easy for any of us and I bet you’re worried about your responsibilities as a model…but you can’t let that get to you,” Makoto insisted, his tone tempting her to gaze toward him.

However, she fought off that urge and kept her eyes focused on the laundry machine in front of her, mockingly scoffing at his comment. Makoto either didn’t notice her distain or simply chose to push past it, because he decided to continue nonetheless.

“I know it’ll be hard, but we all have to work together and just tough it out for now,” he suggested, obviously doing his best to cheer her up. “I mean, I know it’s no walk in the park but, at least living here isn’t as horrible as—”.

“Are you for real?” she harshly interrupted, earning a light gasp from him. Finally, turning toward him, she scowled fiercely and shouted, “How can anyone live like this? I’m going freaking crazy from boredom here and you’re telling me to just tough it out?! It’s impossible!”

Mukuro watched as the Ultimate Lucky Student flinched at her words, immediately falling silent. Honestly, she wasn’t entirely sure if her frustration was born out of her desire to keep up her ‘Junko’ act or if she was still bothered by what she’d been thinking about before. Either way, she was in full-throttle and wouldn’t let anything stop her now.

Pointing up at the nearby camera, she shouted, “Hey, whatever dumb bastard trapped us here! Let us out of here! Just tell us what we have to do to get out! Are you listening?!”

Silence filled the room after her tirade until she let out a deep sigh.

“Nothing, huh? That pisses me off!”

Her eyes flicked over to a round object sitting on the nearby table. It appeared to be a glass ball, probably belonging to Yasuhiro, resting comfortably on a decorative pillow. An idea formed in her mind and without hesitation, she reached out and grasped the ball.

Out of the corner of her peripheral, she saw Makoto’s eyes bulge as she reared her arm back to throw the glass orb at the camera. A smirk spread over her lips as she felt a surge of satisfaction. This would teach that hopeful little boy that just having a positive attitude and kind words wouldn’t be enough to—

“You can’t!!!”

Suddenly, something wrapped around her arm and a great weight pulled it down, causing her to let the glass ball slip from her grasp. Caught off-guard by the abrupt shift in weight, she felt her body fall backward toward the floor. Mukuro reacted instantly and spun around, using the force of the fall to slam whatever had latched onto her arm into the floor.

On instinct, Mukuro was about to twist her elbow and inflict more damage when a weak grunt reached her ears. Her sky-blue irises bulged as she saw that she was now pinning Makoto harshly to the ground. Despite the obvious pain he was experiencing due to her joint pressing against his abdomen, he still desperately held onto her arm.

“Wh-What are you doing?!” Mukuro shouted at him, trying to free her arm. However, Makoto tightened his grip and furiously held on.

“Y-You need to calm down, Junko!” the Ultimate Lucky Student insisted, grunting from her continuous attempt to retract her arm. “Remember what happened to Mondo! I don’t want you to get hurt!”

All at once, Mukuro’s struggles ceased and she stared, wide-eyed, at the boy restraining her.

Was he…trying to protect her? Why the hell would he do that? Even considering Makoto’s soft-hearted nature, she’d never seen him act this desperately before. At least not since they had arrived here. Jumping in between Mondo and Byakuya on their first day, and now physically tackling her to stop her from violating a rule…it didn’t make sense.

He’d never been so reckless when they were at the Academy, so why now?

Could it be that the explosion that occurred when Mondo attacked Monokuma instilled something in him? Did the threat of their lives actually being in danger cause him to have a radical change in behavior?

If so, it was the exact opposite of when Mukuro had first been exposed to life-threatening dangers.

The first time her life was in danger, she thought only of her own survival, killing her attacker with the knife they had planned to end her life with. At first she was surprised at how easy it had been to take a life, but now, it was second nature. To her, to live meant for others to die…it had always been that way. It was a fact of life that absolutely everyone understood.

Then…why did Makoto, whose life was threatened by the killing game, continue to put other’s ahead of himself? Why did he have the strength to try and help others but didn’t have the drive to protect himself?

These thoughts left Mukuro in a state of utter confusion for nearly an entire minute as she stared blankly at Makoto as he continued to grip her arm.

Seeing that she had calmed down somewhat, Makoto finally felt confident enough to release her. The moment he did, the disguised woman finally came to her senses and pushed herself away harshly, causing him to groan as her elbow dug into him moment longer before being retracted. Propping himself up onto his elbows, he could only watch as “Junko” quickly rose to her feet.

“W-Why do you care?” Mukuro insisted, fixing her clothes and glaring down at him. “It’s not like we’re friends or anything. So, what if I decided to break a rule? It’s my decision and no one else’s!”

A hint of shock registered on Makoto’s face at those words and he lowered his gaze away from her. Mukuro almost smirked, realizing that he had finally begun to understand how powerless he truly was here. Maybe now he would get that no matter how hard he tried, he’d never be able to stop the—

“Maybe so,” he interrupted her thoughts, his hazel eyes looking up at her with such resolution that she almost felt her heart skip. “But if I just stood by and let you do something that I know will get you killed, then it would be the same as if I killed you myself! And I won’t let that happen! I’ll do whatever takes to help everyone! I won’t let any of my friends die!”

If anyone other than Makoto Naegi had said those words to her, Mukuro would have swiftly countered them with verbal jab before briskly walking away. She would have kept up her guise completely, not letting even a hint of shock show through. And she certainly wouldn’t have felt that strange stinging sensation in her chest return…like it was right now.

However, because it was Makoto and because of how determined and hopeful he appeared, Mukuro couldn’t stop herself from letting out the tiniest gasp. And an instant later, a perplexed looked overtook her features, unsure of why that confusing chest pain had resurfaced upon hearing him call her his friend.

Makoto, the boy who smiled at her even back during their academy days, was still able to smile at her and make her feel like it was okay to reciprocate.

Only it wasn’t.

In front of her, she could see the security camera pointed down at them, fixated on them as if the mastermind wanted to get a closer look. As if a cold bucket of water had doused her, Mukuro’s senses quickly reset and she managed to pull herself together. A deep frown formed on her face as she glared down at the still smiling boy.

“Idiot. We’re not friends. So don’t act like it.”

Her cold, harsh words instantly shattered the warm smile that Makoto had given her, making his features sink into a perplexed and hurt expression. Without even letting him say another word, Mukuro turned on a heel, abandoning her laundry as she practically sped toward the door. Furiously flinging the door open, she paused only for a moment to glare at him one final time.

“From now on, just stay away from me!” she shouted as she moved into the hall, slamming the door behind her. She thought she might have heard him calling out for her to stop but she hoped it was merely her imagination.

As she made her way down the hall toward her dorm room, she clutched her chest and gritted her teeth, willing that ache in her chest to pass quickly. All the while, a single thought consumed her mind.

“Stupid Makoto! All of your friends will be dead soon anyway…and so will you.”


 

Sitting in the monitoring chair and watching as her sister sped into her room, Junko held a very shocked expression. Before long, it slowly morphed into a frown and from there it shifted into angrily grit teeth.

“Okay…what the hell was that, Mukuro?!”

Her sister had completely lost it, the guise had almost completely slipped and if anyone but Makoto had been there, they would have noticed in a heartbeat! Flying into that rage earlier and nearly throwing something at the camera was totally something the real Junko might have done but storming out into the hall while shouting made her look like a drama queen!

And while many would expect the Ultimate Fashionista to be a drama queen, Junko knew that she was far above that kind of petty crap and would have simply put that pathetic little herbivore boy in his place with a few choice words.

If Junko had been there herself, she might have given him a serious look and warned him about how she could have smothered him with her undergarments and no one would be the wiser. Then she would have pretended it was a joke for a second, but then would actually do it just to get the game going!

Hell, Mukuro could have done that or even something better!

But what did she do? Ruined the perfect opportunity to either start the killings or at the very least, make Makoto fear for his life so that he either was tempted to kill later or would get himself killed! And to top it off, she let her disguise slip and that could cost both of them the entire—

Suddenly, Junko unclenched her teeth and let out a great sight.

“Ahhh, I’m tired of being angry…”

Getting up from her chair, Junko’s hips swayed as she walked over to a box sitting on a desk only a few feet from her. Pulling the top open, a large number of DVD cases, all labeled with a student’s name, were now visible. Reaching in, she fumbled through them until she found the one she was looking for – “Junko Enoshima”.

A malicious grin spread over her face as she said, “I think I’ll make some…modifications!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 1

Act 3

“It’s settled then! We’ll all meet here each morning for breakfast!” Kiyotaka proclaimed to everyone, ignoring the awkward glares he received from those who had opposed the morning ritual he’d imposed on everyone.

A few of the more unruly students, such as Leon and Mondo, grunted with grim acceptance of this newfound rule, obviously only agreeing to it to make the Ultimate Moral Compass shut his trap. Asahina and Sakura remained silent, thinking this idea would be good to bring everyone together. And the more laid back students, Hifumi, Junko, and Yasuhiro, decided to go with the flow rather than voice objection.

Meanwhile, Sayaka, Chihiro and Fukawa, the more reserved of the students, simply nodded in agreement, not finding much fault with the idea. Makoto also didn’t voice objection, but that was because he honestly believed this would be a good way to prevent anyone from falling to the temptations Monokuma had laid out for them.

Finally, the highly intellectual students, Byakuya, Celeste and Kyoko, opted to remain silent. Voicing their opinions on the matter wouldn’t serve a purpose and either way, the plan had some merit.

Even so, that didn’t mean that they weren’t cautious of this new situation they had found themselves in.


 

Standing next to a table far in the back, Kyoko couldn’t stop herself from pondering Kiyotaka’s motives. Was he truly trying to unite everyone, as he said, or was this simply a ploy to learn the strengths and weaknesses of others?

His earnest nature and title would suggest otherwise but for some reason, Kyoko just couldn’t discount the possibility. However, even she had to admit that he was more than likely genuine in his methods. With that in mind, she made a mental note to keep a closer eye on him from time to time, just to be safe.

Glancing around the room, Kyoko took in the faces of the other students and frowned. Most of them were wearing their hearts on their sleeves, openly showing their fear and increasing desperation. Only those like the overly confident Byakuya Togami or the naturally deceitful Celestia Ludenberg were exempt to this observation, herself included.

In her case, however, it was even more important not to show any weakness in front of them. Because she was missing something that no one else seemed to go without. She had noticed it almost immediately, but then again, who wouldn’t?

After all, it’s not every day you wake up in a hellish situation with little to no memories of your past.

“A fine time for amnesia…almost as if it were orchestrated by someone. I can’t even remember my parent’s faces or what I’ve been doing for the last few years. Or, for that matter, why I am even here at this school.”

No one seemed to mind that she had elected to wait until everyone else had finished gathering their food before getting anything herself. And when she had collected her meal, once again she ventured back to her lonely table to eat. All the while, she kept up her calm demeanor and acted as if nothing was wrong…but it was.

“What’s odd is that it seems to be certain memories. I remember parts of my childhood, my name and that I was accepted into this school, even if the reason eludes me. But…what was my title?” she thought to herself as she ate in silence.

These questions whirled around in her mind and though she kept herself from being overwhelmed by them, she still felt quite uneasy. Just as she sat alone at the back table, Kyoko herself felt cut off from the others.

She couldn’t reveal that she didn’t remember her title or that she had amnesia. There was enough tension between everyone and she didn’t want to increase their fears or apprehensions. Not to mention that revealing such a fact would instantly cast suspicion on her and would alienate her even more than before.

Unconsciously, she gripped her gloved hands together. Her eyes drifted down to her form fitting gloves and she shuddered as she recalled removing them the other night. The horrific burns had left her shocked…no, terrified. Not because of their appearance but because, no matter how hard she tried to remember, she just couldn’t recall how she’d gotten such a life-changing injury.

How could she forget something as traumatizing as severe burns on both her hands?!

Losing one’s memory is a frightening enough ordeal, but having to cope with that loss while being forced to survive a killing game…would undoubtedly break anyone’s spirit. However, simply acknowledging that fact is what was keeping Kyoko Kirigiri sane.

And it was for that reason that, in the next few minutes, she was able to keep her composure.


 

“Alright then, now that we’re all agreed, I’d like to make a personal request of all of you!” Kiyotaka continued shouting even as his classmates began their meals.

“If we are to get along and establish rapport with each other, then it’s necessary to get familiar with everyone. To that effect, from this moment on, I would like to be addressed by the nickname ‘Taka’.”

“And why the hell would we want to do that?” the skeptical voice of Mondo called out, his mouth already full of food.

Glaring fiercely at his delinquent classmate, Taka puffed out his chest and answered, “So that we can feel more comfortable with each other! My mother always calls me Taka and it is rather soothing…in a sense.”

Despite his demands, it was obvious that ‘Taka’ was rather uncomfortable with being called by a nickname. He was doing his best to smile as if it didn’t bother him but it was obvious that his attempt to unite everyone was an utter failure.

Or at least it would have if Aoi hadn’t stood up and said, “Well, in that case…”

Everyone stopped and turned as she spoke, clearly surprised that she had spoken up at all.

“As you guys know, I’m Aoi Asahina…but my friends just call me Hina. So, feel free to call me that too! Let’s all get along everybody!”

For some reason, Hina’s cheerful smile and affectionate tone seemed infectious, almost immediately resolving much of the tension that everyone was feeling. Even the stern faced Byakuya was feeling slightly more at ease among these commoners, if only because everyone was now silent.

Unfortunately for him, that did not last long.

“T-That’s the way…Hina!” Taka expressed loudly, trying to get used to not properly addressing his classmate. “Anyone else?

“Yeah! I have a long name too!” the overly lazy voice of Yasuhiro called out, earning a good deal of eye rolls and grumbles. “I’m Yasuhiro Hagakure but you can just call me Hiro from now on!”

A collective groan sounded from most of the students but Hiro didn’t seem to notice, as he was too busy laughing at how cool he thought he was being.

It was then that a blessing in disguise abruptly coughed violently, making everyone turn and blanch as they saw none other than Monokuma sitting in one of the chairs in the back of the room.

“Bleagh! How can you people stomach such melodramatic crap? I feel like vomiting dead puppies just listening to you people! I mean, if it were me, I’d be using my fork to poke out a few people’s eyes by now!” the demented bear said before groaning loudly once again.

Being one of the closest ones to the bear, Toko immediately leapt out of her chair and shouted, “Y-Y-You! What do y-you w-want?!”

Instead of directly answering her question, Monokuma pulled itself up to its feet, standing on the seat of the chair as the rest of the students turned to face him. All of them were instantly on guard, with Mondo and Sakura taking a step toward the bear while keeping everyone behind them. Seeing their petrified faces obviously pleased the half and half bear, and it slightly chuckled to itself as it stood on the seat.

Once the bear was certain that everyone’s eyes were on itself, Monokuma finally answered, “You know, I’ve been trying to figure it out…but I just can’t. Maybe it’s because I’m a bear and I have no real human emotions but…since your lives here have already begun and a couple of days have gone by, I can’t understand why nobody’s killed anyone yet!”

“Of course we haven’t killed each other!” Makoto furiously interrupted, slamming his hands down on the table in front of him. “There’s nothing you can say that’ll make us want to kill anybody!”

Even as Makoto shouted at him, it was obvious by the bored look on Monokuma’s face that he wasn’t even listening to what the herbivore boy was saying to him. Instead, he suddenly snapped his head up, as if inspiration had just descended upon his despair inducing mind.

“Wait, I see now! Ding! Ding! Ding! I’ve got it! I just realized that there is one very important piece missing from this scenario! And that would be….a ‘motive’! I need to give you all a proper ‘motive’ to get this game a-going!”


 

As the entire class paled at Monokuma’s announcement, Mukuro did her best to be as surprised as her classmates. It had only been a matter of time and it seemed that Junko had finally gotten bored enough to bring out their first motive.

“It’s a bit sooner than I expected, but I suppose this is Junko we’re dealing with,” she thought as she pretended to be as shocked as her classmates.

After telling everyone to go to the A/V room, Mukuro watched as Mondo volunteered Makoto to be the one to go and confirm if the bear was telling the truth. And as the Ultimate Lucky Student found himself unable to refuse, she couldn’t deny that it was kind of amusing to see him so flustered.

“Serves him right for trying to interfere with my business,” Mukuro thought with a hidden smile, still a little ruffled over what had happened in the laundry room the day before. “Maybe this will teach him that not everything works out just because you want it to. If not, I may have to teach him a lesson myself!”

At the time, Mukuro had absolutely no way of knowing just how accurate her predictions could be.


 

-In the A/V Room-

Makoto Naegi’s mind and body froze as he stared at the image on the screen. Only a moment ago, his family had been there, cheering him on with such enthusiasm that he had momentarily forgotten where he was and what was happening. And then, the blackness of the screen startled him and the next image is what made his blood run cold.

His wonderful and beautiful home was torn to pieces, the windows shattered and his family nowhere to be seen. And then, those horrific words appeared on the screen…

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*

A surge of desperate anger rose up inside the normally optimistic boy and he furiously smashed his fists against the video console that had shown him such despair.

“God Dammit!!! I have to…I have to make sure everyone is okay!!!”

The Ultimate Lucky Student had no idea that standing just behind him, completely befuddled by his change in attitude, were the rest of his classmates. For a moment, no one said anything, even the stoic Kyoko was at a momentary loss.

That was when Sayaka, who had led everyone there and was standing in front, snapped out of her trance.

“M-Makoto…What happened?” she asked timidly, unsure of what could make her very hopeful friend radically change like this.

Although still in shock, Makoto’s head snapped up at hearing her and he slowly turned to see his classmates still staring at him. He felt ashamed that they had seen him so desperate and full of fear, when he had been the one telling them all to stay calm and work together. However, after seeing that video, his mind was in a state of disbelief and he wasn’t quite sure if anything that was happening was still real.

Without a word, he pointed to the box of DVDs that Monokuma had left them, the ‘motive’ the bear had promised to show them.

A moment passed before everyone silently approached the box, taking out the disk marked with their own name. Everyone dispersed and everyone paled as they watched the images unfold before them.

“Good luck at your new school, honey! Don’t get into bigger trouble with the yakuza and remember to change your clothes, it’s hard making new friends when you smell like incense. Oh, and for the love of all that is holy, DON’T GET HELD BACK AGAIN!”

Hiro didn’t understand why everyone seemed to so terrified of these DVDs. I mean, it was nothing but a nice, heart-warming video message from his beautiful and (for the most part) loving mother, Hiroko. Briefly looking up from his console, the Ultimate Clairvoyant watched as his classmates faces began to twist in horror. He was just about to take his headphones off and shout to Asahina, who was a few feet away, when a hissing noise filled his ears.

Snapping his head back to his own screen, Hiro’s irises widened as he saw the new image.

The camera that had been recording his mother had been knocked over and sounds of a struggle could be heard. A piercing scream rang out and Hiro couldn’t stop himself from smacking both hands on the screen and leaning in. And then, something fell in front of the overturned recording device and he instantly recognized it as his mother.

Hiroko, her eyes wide with terror, scrambled to get away from something off camera. Hiro was forced to watch as his mother’s once smiling face upturned in fearful panic. All at once, two pairs of hands shot out and grasped her legs, pulling her roughly and dragging her off camera. She turned to face the lens one last time and as she opened her mouth, either to scream or shout something, the screen blackened.

Before Hiro could even think, that sickly sweet voice of the headmaster called out:

“Oh dear! It seems that 30% accuracy in fortune telling was just enough for our Ultimate Clairvoyant NOT to see this coming! Oh me, oh my, whatever happened to poor Yasuhiro’s bombshell of a mother!”

Less than a moment later, those ominous words appeared before him.

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*


 

“Meoooooow…”

For a long stretch of time, Celeste could only stare blankly at the video screen. She had been expecting some sort of threatening message and feared that someone may have discovered her true name and identity. The last thing she expected was to see a pudgy black cat with a frilly collar glaring at her through the camera lens.

However, it wasn’t just any feline that was caught on film. This fine specimen was none other than Grand Bois Cheri Ludenberg, a most beloved pet of Celeste’s.

Having been forced to leave her treasured companion at home, due to the academy not permitting pets unless they were tied to one’s Ultimate Title, Celeste never expected to see his adorable face here. She fought back the feeling of relief that rose up inside her, already knowing that the spoiled feline’s appearance was an ill omen.

And just as she guessed, Monokuma’s voice quickly came through her headphones.

“Ah, the majestic house cat. Such a delightful and heartwarming little ball of fur that surely wishes to see its mistress again.”

Abruptly, Grand Bois Cheri Ludenberg hissed loudly as a shadow loomed over him. With speed unlike anything Celeste had ever seen, her beloved cat leapt out of view and could be heard clawing and hissing for several moments. The Ultimate Gamble foolishly allowed the faintest smirk to grace her lips before the horrific sound of a feline yelp reached her ears.

It was quickly followed by a smashing noise that sounded as if a metal pipe had just struck a particularly large mass of fur. Celeste’s milky white skin became even paler as the shadow once again loomed over the camera. The screen began to darken but just before it faded to black, a frilly collar with a fresh bloodstain flashed in front of the camera.

Despite every single command that her brain sent her, Celeste couldn’t stop the terrified gasp that escaped her. Her beloved feline companion…the only real friend she had ever known…the only creature in this world she had shared her life-long dream with was…was…!

It was then that Monokuma’s dulcet tones came back.

“Oh don’t freak out! The kitty’s not dead…I think? If only there was a way to be sure, a way for Miss Ludenberg to go home and see her beloved little furball again. Oh wait! There is!”

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*

Deep down inside, buried beneath a mountain of false pretenses and practiced mannerisms…Taeko Yasuhiro burned with a furious rage.

“You little bitch! Whoever you are...for what you’ve done to Grand Bois Cheri Ludenberg…you’re fucking dead!”


 

Leon honestly snickered as he looked at the monitor in front of him. On the screen was an obviously hastily put together video of his old middle school baseball, standing on the field next to their old school. They all crowded together to fit into the frame and from off-screen, persistent shouting could be heard.

“Oh, come on, guys! We only get one shot at this! Just bite the bullet and huddle up! For Leon!”

The Ultimate Baseball Star smirked as he recognized the voice of his overly energetic cousin and wasn’t surprised when she suddenly appeared before the lens. Her blonde hair was tied in a bow and she gave an enthusiastic grin as she moved to join the team. Clearing her throat, the former manager of the team brushed off her dress before staring directly at the camera.

“We know it’ll be hard getting used to Hope’s Peak. But we all know how hard you’ve worked for it! You’re gonna do amazing Leon! And even though you’re a bit lazy and don’t need to practice…”

Suddenly, as one, the rest of the team joined in and shouted:

“Don’t give up on baseball, Leon! We know you can do it! Take it all the way to the nationals!”

Leon chuckled to himself and slightly lowered his head; it was just like his cousin to pull this kind of stunt. If they had been standing in front of him, declaring their determination for him, he would have merely shrugged it off playfully. But here, trapped in this school, that little bit of encouragement resonated deep in Leon’s chest and he felt lighter than he had for—

Abruptly, a hissing noise flooded Leon’s ears and his eyes shot to screen to see the image shifting into a nightmare.

The once peaceful ball field was now littered with the bodies of Leon’s former teammates. Blood-stained and beaten, none of his friends seemed to be moving at all. Dented and bloody baseball bats lay scattered around the field, filling the Ultimate Baseball Star with utter horror. However, the most frightening thing wasn’t what could be seen…but what couldn’t.

Leon’s eyes frantically scanned the entire field through the screen and while his stomach churned as he looked at each and every corpse, the one he failed to find among them was his cousin, Kanon Nakajima.

It was then that the hated bear’s voice came through the headset:

“Would you look at that? It seems that after you left them, Leon, you’re team just fell to pieces…literally! Oh, but it seems that one member of the team seems to be missing. A certain Ultimate’s little cousin is nowhere to be found! I wonder whatever happened to her?”

Even before the words came up on the screen, Leon smashed his hands against the monitor and screamed with rage.

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*


 

“…What…what the hell is this?” Mondo questioned aloud as he looked at his monitor.

On the screen, his gang, the Crazy Diamonds, had their bikes all lined up and were revving their engines furiously. All of them wore a similar duster that bore their gangs name on the back and strung above them, supported by two poles, was a long paper sign that read:

Give ‘em Hell, Leader!

Just then, one of the bikers kicked his stand up and dismounted his motorcycle. He brazenly walked up toward the camera, stopping just in front of it with a cocky grin on his face and his arms folded. Mondo instantly recognized him as his number two guy: Takemichi Yukimaru.

“Yo, Leader! We know you’ve got your own problems to deal with, bein’ in that new school with all those weirdoes and all. But we wanted to let you know that, no matter where you go or what you do…you’ll always be our Badass Boss! And if you ever have need of the Crazy Diamonds! We got your back!”

Despite knowing how it would look if his classmates saw him, Mondo didn’t fight the tiny smirk that stretched over his lips, a hint of moisture in the corner of his eyes. His boys’ display and Takemichi’s words resonated deep in his soul and for the first time since being trapped here, Mondo felt that he could stay strong for—

Suddenly, a huge explosion came rattling through the headphones and Mondo practically slammed his face into the screen as he leaned in.

His gang was visibly startled by the noise and some of them had fallen over due to the force of the explosive. Luckily, none of them seemed to be hurt but just as they began to pick each other up, a vicious shout echoed.

From out of nowhere, a rival gang that the Crazy Diamonds had trounced before suddenly appeared. All of them were armed with metal pipes, baseball bats or brass knuckles and with no hesitation, they began to mercilessly beat down Mondo’s crew. There was no quarter given as the rival gang’s weapons cracked bones and shattered skulls.

Mondo’s eyes widened and pure rage coursed through him as he stood there, helpless, as he was forced to watch his boys get beaten…some to death. The Ultimate Bike Gang Leader balled his fists and cursed as he thought of how cowardly those rival gang shit bags were for pulling such a bullshit stunt while he was away!

And just as Mondo was about to ram his fist into the screen to make it stop, he saw a familiar face dragged in front of the camera. He gasped aloud as he saw those other gang bastards holding Takemichi in a kneeling position. The number two Crazy Diamond struggled furiously to get free but froze as a shadow loomed over him, his eyes bulging in terror. And in the next moment, a metal pipe made brutal contact with Takemichi’s head, a thick splatter of blood darkening the camera lens.

“Such violence to such—” Monokuma’s voice began.

However, Mondo didn’t even hear it as demented bear continued jeered about him not being able to protect his gang and he didn’t notice the sugary sweet words that would have come up after the video. Because his fist had already smashed through the console and embedded deep within the machinery.

“…You…SON OF A BITCH!!!!!!!”


 

“…I already told you…I’m not telling you…anything…You low-life bastards…”

Taka’s eyes were glued to his screen, unable to comprehend the images before him. The video had started out nice enough, his loving mother was telling him to do his best and at least try to make friends. But then, when she opened her mouth to speak again, the video suddenly changed.

Now the setting was a dark room with a dim light hanging above, giving the room an eerie glow. In the center was a single chair and tied to that chair, beaten and exhausted, was Takaaki Ishimaru…Taka’s father. His graying dark hair was frazzled and it looked as if he hadn’t shaved for a while, which Taka noted was very unlike his stern and professional father.

The scene was almost like a police interrogation, which oddly made sense because Taka’s father was a police officer. However, why was his father the one tied to the chair? Why was he the one being questioned? Surely his father had noticed the disappearance of his son and the entire class with him?

So then…how was it that Takaaki was the one to be interrogated! How could such a thing happen?! Japan’s justice system had never faltered and his father had always been on the right side of the law! Both he and his father were law-abiding citizens! How could such terrible things happen to them!? What happened to the Civil System and the Order of Society?!

As all these thoughts raced through Taka’s mind, the voice of that loathsome bear echoed:

“Takaaki Ishimaru, a well-mannered police dick from Towa City. He’s being held in custody under the pretense that he won’t tell us where to find his god-damn wife!”

Hearing this, Taka foolishly let the faintest glimmer of hope seep into his mind. Even though the Ultimate Moral Compass had no idea how this situation had come about, it gave him renewed strength to see that his stern and tough father was still fighting and struggling even now to keep his beloved wife safe! This surely meant that his mother was still alive and hadn’t been caught up in whatever had happened to both him and his father!

It filled Taka with pride that he had such a dedicated and strong parents who would never give in to—

“Bring it in!” an unrecognizable voice on the video abruptly shouted, disturbing Taka’s thoughts.

A dark shadow came out from behind the camera, wheeling in a cart with a large square object secured to it. It took Taka less than a moment to recognize it as an electric generator. All at once, paralyzing fear gripped him as he watched the dark figure hook up two long corded clamps to the generator. Moving toward the chair, Taka could only stare frantically as the other ends of the cords were attached to the chair his father sat in.

Takaaki tensed for a moment, obviously feeling a hint of the electricity. However, the experienced police officer only hardened his glare before spitting at them.

“You punks think you’re tough?! I was putting little bastards like you behind bars when you were in diapers! And you think I’m gonna—”

A loud click sounded and Takaaki abruptly ceased speaking, his body tensing and twisting. His voice came out as a gargled snarl as the electricity coursed through his body.

Utter horror warped Taka’s face as he watched his father’s body convulse. However, he held his composure, no matter how much he wanted to break, because of the look on his father’s face. Takaaki was still glaring furiously at his captor, even through the pain and burning his body must have been feeling. He hadn’t given up…he was standing up for his family by not breaking.

That is…until another click was heard and Takaaki’s face twisted in agony and he let out a pain-filled scream. It was then that the screen abruptly went black and Monokuma’s voice returned.

“I wonder whatever happened to that stubborn cop. Did he give in and tell them where his wife was, to end his own suffering? Or did he just die in a pool of his own excrement?”

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*

Surprisingly, Taka was no longer gaping at the video. In fact, he had found a strange sensation of calmness. All of this felt wrong…no, more like it felt impossible. How could his father, a reputable police officer, be captured and tortured without anyone knowing of the incident? And in only the few days since Taka had been imprisoned?

“It must be fake…that’s it,” Taka said quietly, as if trying to convince himself. “And even if it was…I know that…Dad would never give in…never….”


 

“…and that’s about all I have to say for now. Just remember, Chihiro, I’m always on your side. No matter what choices you make in life…I will always support you. Your mother may not be with us anymore but I guarantee you that I’ll always be here for—”

Static erupted on the screen and the on-looking Chihiro blinked rapidly as the video abruptly changed.

Fire…blazing high and scorching the sky. Thick, billowing clouds of smoke raising out of the house that Chihiro had called home since birth. A home filled with so much advanced electronic computer systems that even NASA would have been shocked at what they found inside. And now, it was all going up in flames…

“W-W-Why is this…happening?!” Chihiro squeezed out, barely able to take in air due to shock.

Only a moment ago, Chihiro’s father, Taichi Fujisaki, had been telling the programmer all about his recent work with technology…and now all of it was up in flames!

Suddenly, the video changed again and it was focusing on the door leading to the inside of the burning house. Standing outside, staring up at the blaze, a man with light brown hair stood just outside the door. The Ultimate Programmer stiffened as they recognized the figure.

“D-Dad! What are you doing?! Get away from there!” Chihiro said aloud, not caring if anyone heard.

To the programmer’s utter horror, Taichi defied the unheard wishes of his child and brazenly dashed into the burning home. Chihiro’s hands slammed into the screen, as if trying to reach in and pluck the man from danger.

“No! No! No! Get out of there! It’s not worth—” Chihiro shrilled in desperation, clawing at the screen in a frenzy…but it was too late.

A moment later, the roof of that home gave way. The flames shot up even higher and larger patches of black smog rose up from the decimated home.

It was then that the sickening voice of the headmaster came on.

“Oh no! Someone call the fire brigade! I knew that having all that technological stuff lying around was a bad idea! Don’t you know that having too many electronics is a fire hazard?! And what about that guy who ran back in to try and save his beloved computer equipment? Do you think he made it out of the blaze?”

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*

All color faded from Chihiro’s cheeks before the programmer collapsed to the floor, hot tears streaming from reddened eyes.


 

When the video began, Toko honestly couldn’t understand what was happening. It appeared as though someone was carrying a handheld camera around, filming their travels outside and into a small garage.

For a brief moment, the Ultimate Writing Prodigy thought that this kind of angle would be perfect for a romantic rendezvous. Meeting a tall, handsome stranger in the darkened space for a passionate love confession! Heat rose up in Toko’s collar just thinking about it!

“M-Meeting in such a secluded place! Ohhhhh, what delightful feats of passion will two lovers achieve in such a location!!” she thought furiously, panting like a dog in heat.

However, a loud slam from the video startled her and Toko turned her sights back to the movie.

The figure behind the camera had turned and was now looking down at a strange canister on the floor. It had a long tube with a spray handle attached to it and an image of a cockroach with a large red X through it printed on the canister itself. Obviously this was some kind of insect repellant or poison but why would that be in a romantic—

In mid-thought, Toko watched the camera turn and face the center of the small garage. Sitting there, doing absolutely no harm, was a small but very familiar bug cage.

Fear seizing her up, Toko couldn’t make a single sound as the camera began to move closer and closer to the bug container. Each step made the writing prodigy flinch and she began to shake her head back and forth, as if trying to deny that what she was seeing was real.

And then, only moments before the figure would have reached the insect container, the hose of the canister was lifted for the viewer to see, the nozzle aimed directly at the bug cage. It was then that the lens zoomed in and Toko finally caught a glimpse of the exact insect that was trapped inside.

Before she had time react, the hissing of the hose reached her ears and she watched the spray of poison fly toward the unsuspecting insect.

“K-K-K-Kameko!!!!!”

Just as Toko called out to her insect companion, the screen blackened and Monokuma’s voice chimed in.

“…Seriously….who the hell has a stink bug as a freaking pet!? Hell, who cares for a stink bug, period!? Anyway, wanna see if we crushed or poisoned it?”

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*


 

“Forgive me, Young Master. I have failed you.”

Byakuya honestly couldn’t believe what he was seeing. On the monitor in front of him, a grey haired old man dressed in butler attire was staring back him, surrounded by several armed gunmen with their crosshairs pointed at the restrained elder. The Ultimate Affluent Progeny instantly recognized his faithful butler, Aloysius Pennyworth, but that fact alone was startling.

If the Mastermind was trying to use hostages as bargaining chips, as Byakuya surmised, how then did they discover his connection to Aloysius?

Very few outside of the Togami Family knew of the butler or that he was Byakuya’s personal aide since he was born. In fact, if Byakuya was pressed to admit it, the elderly man could be considered the only person in this world that he actually placed value in. After all, the Togami Heir had been in Aloysius’ care longer than he could remember.

But then, who could have known about that and would be in a position to use it against him in this killing game? No one readily came to mind, and that troubled Byakuya even more.

Even so, it was difficult to believe that someone had been smart enough to use Aloysius against him like this. Having no love or affection from anyone in the Togami Family, Byakuya never had anyone to turn to aside from his faithful butler. During his long battle with his siblings to reach the top, the only person who had been there to witness his rise to glory had been this old man.

And while Byakuya wouldn’t call Aloysius a father figure…he had to admit that he didn’t completely find the servant to be without merit. Even so, the Togami Heir valued the elderly man for his loyalty. That is why, when he saw his butler with his hands tied behind his back, as if awaiting for a firing squad to gun him down, Byakuya saw red for the first time in his life.

Although Aloysius appeared to have no physical injuries, the shame on the elderly man’s face spoke volumes. However, as Byakuya stared into that wrinkly old face, he suddenly noticed something he’d seen far too often in the butler’s eyes.

Almost scoffing to himself, Byakuya whispered, “I see. So that’s the kind of game this is.”

The look that Byakuya recognized from his butler was not one of shame or even a cry for help…it was a silent command that he make whomever had opposed his young master pay for their crimes against him!

It was the same look that Aloysius had given him many years ago, when Byakuya had been unsure if he could really outwit his siblings and become the heir to the Togami Family. It was this look that gave the young Togami Progeny the strength to stand up to all the odds and defy all expectations.

“Age does not matter. All that matters is ability. And you possess that, Young Master…”

That is what Aloysius had said to him and now, even though it was silent, the aged butler was telling him the same thing. He had faith in his protégé to fulfill his destiny and it was all the encouragement Byakuya would need…even if he hadn’t asked for it.

Taking off the headset, the Ultimate Affluent Progeny didn’t bother listening as the demented bear began drolling on about what may have happened to the butler. For Byakuya, that was already irrelevant. He knew what needed to be done.

“This is no different than my rise to the top of the Togami Family. No matter the cost, I will be the one standing victorious at the end of this game…I swear on my family name!”

The Mastermind behind this ordeal had no idea that instead of inspiring fear and despair in the young heir, he had given him the motivation to endure and win this twisted game.


 

“T-This can’t be real! This has to be fake, right?!” Hina almost shouted as she stood, appalled by the video she’d just seen. Her body shook and she wrapped her arms around herself to keep steady.

Her video had been straightforward, to keep her from getting confused. It showed her younger brother, Yuta Asahina, sitting in front of a camera with a perplexed look.

“This is a video for my sister? What am I supposed to say? Something encouraging? Why? My sister’s amazing! She doesn’t need any encouragement!”

Hina had almost laughed at that. It was great to know her brother had such confidence in her, though she already knew as much. This definitely wouldn’t have been the first time she heard Yuta compliment her on her prowess as an athlete. If she hadn’t been under such dangerous circumstances, she might have turned the video off right then.

Unfortunately, that was when things took a turn for the worse.

A dark figure walked around to the other side of Yuta as he struggled to come up with something to say. The figure then proceeded to pull out a cloth and a bottle of something from behind their back. Hina gasped as she watched the figure slowly put some of whatever was in that bottle onto the cloth and set it just behind her brother.

At the same time, Yuta finally seemed to come up with something to say, because his whole face lit up with excitement. However, as he opened his mouth to speak up, the figure behind him thrust the cloth over his mouth. It took less than a second for the Ultimate Swimmer’s younger brother to fall limp in the figure’s grasp.

Frozen in place by what she’d seen, Hina could only listen as the voice of Monokuma came to torment her.

“Well, at least that finally shut the little brat up! Seriously, if they hadn’t done that, he would have talked us all to death! But anyway, yeah, he’s still alive. Where is he? How is he doing? Is he still an annoying little brat that you want to cut the tongue out of?!”

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*

Those sugary words still illuminated the screen as Hina backed away from it, a hand over her mouth to keep from screaming. Never in all her life had she so desperately wished that everything was a dream, but no matter how hard she pinched herself, she wouldn’t wake up. Almost against her will, tears spilled down her cheeks as she begged for this all to be a nightmare.

Only it wasn’t…this was real…and no amount of tears would change that.


 

Sakura’s massive figure trembled with anger and her hands were clutched tightly into fists. In her family, the dojo where they all trained was more than sacred; it was a place of peace that was the symbol of strength for the Ogami Clan. It was a place that was treated with utmost respect and was never to be tarnished by the working of the common man.

So when the video screen flickered on and Sakura beheld the state of her family’s ancestral training ground, it took every ounce of strength to keep her rage from surfacing.

The walls and floor of the dojo had fallen into disrepair, and large holes in the ceiling allowed for light to stream in from above. However, the most enraging feature was the massive amount of graffiti that now cascaded almost every inch of the once sacred training ground. The various obscene colors of the offensive paint were drawn with purpose, as they all seemed to connect to form a gigantic mural vaguely resembling Monokuma.

The instant Sakura noticed this, she became even more infuriated, glaring at the screen as if doing so would reverse the damage done. However, much to her dismay, only the melodically annoying voice of Monokuma greeted her.

“Wow, you have really let the place go! You really should take better care of your family’s dojo. I mean, you were entrusted with its protection and all, weren’t you? But now that I think of it, isn’t it odd that, since your family lives just next door, that they would allow such disgrace to befall such a pitiful heirloom? *Gasp* Could it be that they’ve all been…defeated?!”

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*

Sakura almost flinched as the monitor clicked off but she held her composure. Even if the demented bear’s insinuations were true, and her family had been…overpowered by some unnatural force, it was not in her family’s nature to defy their fate. If they were to be beaten, they accept whatever punishment the victor decides for them, as it had been for generations in the Ogami Family.

What was truly unforgivable…was the retched sight of their family’s dojo being disrespected in such a way! Even more humiliating was that Sakura, as the current head of the Ogami Clan, was tasked with the responsibility to preserve their family’s honor by maintaining the dojo. If those images were in fact real…then she had failed in the sacred duty that had been passed down to her by her father.

And as much as she hated to admit it, it appeared as though she had utterly failed not only her family…but also her ancestors.


 

“…and don’t forget to change your underwear every day. I know you have a bad habit about that so don’t let yourself go. You’re in high school now, so be a little more responsible. Well, that should be it for now. Take care of yourself, Hifumi! And be sure to become one of the four Legendary Manga Artists by the time you return!”

Hifumi felt winded after watching his video. From the moment it turned on, it appeared to be nothing more than a message from his sister, Fujiko Yamada. And while it was nice to see her again, Hifumi couldn’t help but feel embarrassed that his sibling had spent over five minutes of the video reminding him how to take care of himself!

Despite that, he wouldn’t deny that he felt more at ease than before. Perhaps his sister’s powers of natural calmness had seeped into the video and were empowering him to stay strong. Yes! He had to persevere! Just as Princess Piggles did when she was forced to fight against her mind controlled friends!

“Okay, how was that?”

Hifumi snapped out of his reverie as his sister’s voice continued to come through the headphones. She was now looking off-screen and talking to someone whom Hifumi could not see or hear.

“Is that really all you need from me? I guess it was a nice thing to do for my brother but…it feels kinda awkward to record an encouragement video after he’s already at school. Well, I suppose it’s just something you Hope’s Peak people like doing for your students. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Watching the screen intently, Hifumi felt a strange unease settling into him as he saw his sister’s face upturn in amused perplexion.

“M-My autograph?! Surely you can’t mean…you’re a fan of my work! Oh, that’s quite a shock! I thought only kids seemed to enjoy my work these days. But if you insist…I suppose a signing or two couldn’t hurt!”

The Ultimate Fanfic Creator sighed at seeing his sister become so flustered at merely being asked for an autograph. He would never become so reddened with embarrassment! He would have held his head up high and produced the paper and ink from his own pocket!

In the midst of his thoughts, he watched as his sister stood up from her seat.

“One moment! Let me get my official signing papers!”

Fujiko must have been rather excited because as she ran past the camera, she accidentally bumped it. The forced spun the lens to the side and Hifumi gasped as he finally got a clear look at the people who had ‘interviewed’ his sibling.

All of them were wearing expensive looking business suits but that wasn’t the frightening part. Each of them was equipped with a large Monokuma mask that completely obscured their heads! They almost appeared to be snickering as they approached the camera and abruptly shut it off.

And to Hifumi’s horror, the voice that belonged to the bear those masks embodied suddenly came through his headphones.

“Well, I never! Those greedy guys! Getting an official autograph from Fujiko Yamada! I’m so jealous…or at least I would be if they had actually gotten such a trophy! But don’t worry, they got themselves an ever better souvenir from their trip…they got to take the famous doujin author home with them! Do you think she’s having a good time with such ‘strapping’ young men?!”

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*


 

Before putting on her video, Kyoko took a moment to glance around at her classmates. Judging by the terror and desperation that spread among them like wildfire, the amnesiac girl assumed that this ‘motive’ had been planned from the beginning and that everyone’s initial refusal to go along with the killing game had incited the mastermind to do this.

Turning her fierce gaze around, she found that Junko had only just put on her headphones and begun watching her video. Was it because she had been one of the last to find their DVD or could it be that she had hesitated out of fear? In either case, Kyoko couldn’t stop herself from believing it was suspicious and made a mental note to inquire about Junko’s trepidation later.

Picking up her own headphones and sliding her own ‘motive’ into the player, the amnesiac girl was actually quite curious as to what would appear. If the mastermind didn’t know of her amnesia, then this would prove a valuable clue to her identity. However, if, as she suspected, her memory loss was somehow planned, then this disk would reveal it all.

As the screen flickered to life, Kyoko felt perplexed as nothing but a single photo of an older man slowly appeared on the monitor. She didn’t recognize the elderly man nor did she feel any kind of recollection at seeing his face. Even so, something about him was…familiar, though Kyoko felt that word was too strong to accurately describe the feeling she got by looking at the picture.

It was then that Monokuma’s voice came to her, making the amnesiac girl suppress a groan.

“This man is Fuhito Kirigiri. He is your only living relative and he is quite close to our current location. In fact, he is waiting for you just outside the school and he holds the key to something precious that you’ve lost. But I can’t say for how long. He may not survive long enough for you to learn why you’re here and what your true purpose is. Think carefully on what you want to do next.”

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*

Despite how shocking this information was, Kyoko didn’t even flinch. The bear had sounded much more serious that she’d ever heard him before, as if it knew that provoking her would only strengthen her resolve. Not only that, Monokuma hadn’t seemed concerned about revealing that her memory loss was not a coincidence, confirming her suspicions of the amnesia somehow being purposefully inflicted on her.

And while it was frightening to think that anyone would be able to intentionally take away someone’s memories, it was even more terrifying that the mastermind paid no mind in revealing that they had done so. Monokuma may not have directly stated it, but the way it nonchalantly spoke showed that whoever controlled the demented bear wasn’t concerned if she discovered the truth.

Even so, this was a boon for Kyoko, as she now knew that the mastermind had considered her enough of a threat to take away something as precious as her memories. And while she couldn’t deny that it was more than tempting to be free of this place and meet with her supposed ‘only living relative’, the cost of attaining that freedom was just too high.

“Patience,” Kyoko told herself, slipping off the headset and running a hand through her long hair. “Right now, I have to focus on what I can do. If the mastermind believed me to be such a threat, then it must mean that only I am capable of solving this mystery. Otherwise, he would have done the same to my classmates as well.”

Feeling empowered by what she had learned, Kyoko hardened her features and waited in silence for her classmates to finish watching their own ‘motives’.


 

Mukuro honestly didn’t know what to feel as she watched her classmates’ expressions shift from hope to utter despair. She made sure that hers was the last DVD to be acquired and was quietly observing the others as she made her way over to her own console.

Being careful to appear as distressed as the others, the disguised young woman supposed she did feel a hint of contentment at seeing their terrified visages. Not for herself but because she knew that Junko, who was undoubtedly salivating at the scene, would be appeased with this. Everything was going according to her sister’s plan and it was only a matter of time before the first killings started.

“It’s taking longer than Junko had suspected but then again, we both know that without a motive, these guys would never be willing to kill just to leave here,” she thought as she found a console that was just far enough away from the others that, even if they peeked, they’d be unable to see the screen.

Taking one last glance around the room, Mukuro was almost shocked to see Kyoko was doing the same! She didn’t even have her headphones on! And now her head was turning and would be on Mukuro in a matter of an instant!

Quickly averting her gaze to her monitor, Mukuro pretended she didn’t notice the inquisitive gaze of her classmate as she hesitantly took her DVD out of the case and slid it into the player. Picking up her headphones, she carefully slid them over her ears, very mindful of the wig that snugly fit her head.

Just before she pushed play, Mukuro’s sky-blue eyes flicked over to find that Kyoko had finally turned her attention to her own DVD and was currently watching it. A relieved sigh escaped the Ultimate Soldier as she silently congratulated herself for not being found out. Shifting her gaze back to the screen, she pressed the button on the console and her video was almost instantly brought to life.

“Hmm, I wonder what Junko has prepared for me?” she wondered to herself as the blackness of the screen continued for many moments. “She doesn’t need to motivate me and she’s very aware of that. Perhaps she fabricated a video for herself? Just in case anyone happened to see it.”

As Mukuro considered these options, the video abruptly flashed a bright light on the screen and if she had not been trained to anticipate surprises, the Ultimate Soldier might have been startled. However, she was experienced enough not to flinch even in the face of death and so, the flash did nothing but perplex her.

As the white on the screen faded, a figure became more and more visible. It was female, with luscious curves, an amble buxom and bright pink hair that….Oh dear lord!

This time, the shock of the image did startle the hardened soldier and she gave a noiseless gasp as she recognized the figure on the monitor was none other than her sister, and sitting in the surveillance room no less! The entire room was clearly visible and if any of her classmates saw this image, it would completely ruin everything the sisters had worked for!

Immobilized by the fear of being discovered, Mukuro was completely unprepared when the Junko from the video began speaking:

“Hey there sis! How’s the impersonation going? You’re doing pretty good, by the way. Not exactly an award winning performance but, meh, it gets the job done.”

So many terrifying thoughts coursed through Mukuro’s mind at seeing her sister on that screen. What was Junko thinking?! Didn’t she realize how much danger she was putting herself in by revealing herself, even if it was only to her?! What if one of the other students saw this?! Sure, she was in a place where she was certain no one could see her screen but that didn’t guarantee someone wouldn’t see the disk at some point! Now she would have to be sure to destroy this disk as soon as possible just to be safe!

But more than all that, Mukuro was startled by the fact that Junko had now paused and was merely grinning at her through the monitor, as if giving her time to think. Was it possible that her sister had expected this to happen to the soldier and that’s why she’d given a pause while recording it? It wasn’t beyond Junko’s capabilities and considering the length that the despair loving girl was going to, this certainly wasn’t a leisurely video she’d made to encourage her disguised sister!

Not only that, she could tell that her sister was angry. After all, she’d given her beloved older sister praise…and the only time Junko praised anyone was when she was utterly disappointed with them.

Just as she suspected, the Junko on the screen abruptly let out an annoyed sigh, her personality shifting over to frustration:

“Gawd! I am soooo bored up here, big sis! There hasn’t been a single killing yet, for which you are partially to blame, and I’m crazy with boredom! I thought you were supposed to keep that away from me! You did say that after the game started, you’d keep me entertained! Uhg! It’s so lame, lame, lame, lame, lame, lame--”

The Junko on the screen picked up her feet from the floor before kicking at the side of the computer next to her, causing her rotating chair to spin her round and round. All the while, she kept changing her ‘lame’ sutra.

Mukuro bit her lip hard as her sister groaned and complained. First the praise, and now the complaining, this was a sure sign that Junko had already decided to interfere in the game. However, the Ultimate Soldier knew her sister well and was certain that whatever she had planned, she wouldn’t be doing herself.

Plus, if Junko was dedicated to following the rules, as she had claimed, then it meant that the one to carry out her bidding would have to be—

“I know!”

Junko’s voice through the headset snapped her back to reality and she returned her gaze to the screen to see that her sister had stopped her spinning and was now giving a malicious grin.

“If the killings start…I won’t be bored anymore! Sooooooo, how about this?! Would you please kill Makoto Naegi for me? He’s been far too hopeful during all of this and it’s annoying me. Pretty please, with sprinkles on top?”

Mukuro’s eyes widened at the sudden request, not anticipating the extent that her sister’s boredom was pushing her to. Almost reflexively, the Ultimate Soldier swiveled her gaze around until she was able to see her new target. Makoto was standing near the door, obviously still reeling from what he’d seen in his video, waiting patiently for everyone to finish their own.

And even though his expression was wrapped in despair, Mukuro could still see a hopeful glint in his eyes. He hadn’t given up…even after seeing what had happened to his family, he was still able to keep himself strong and positive.

“It’s no wonder Junko would want him out of the way,” the disguised Mukuro unfortunately surmised, “Dammit, Makoto! Couldn’t you just give in like everyone else?! If you had…I wouldn’t be forced to…to…”

The words trailed off in her mind as she couldn’t force herself to finish the thought. The idea of ending Makoto’s life wasn’t impossible for her to imagine, which is what made the pain in her chest ache even more.

It was then that Junko decided to relay another terrifying message:

“And just to make things exciting, if that herbivore boy who smiles at you isn’t dead within twenty-four hours…I’ll tell everyone that your true identity is Mukuro Ikusaba!!!”

Snapping her head back to the video screen, an audible gasp rasped its way out of Mukuro’s throat as she heard that threat. Against her will, she started to take in quick shallow breaths, trying to force her racing heart to slow. However, nothing could forestall the panic that reached its way into the deepest recesses of her mind.

“Th-This can’t be true!” Mukuro tried to reassure herself. “There is no way that Junko would jeopardize my position! Not when it’s so vital too—”.

As if anticipating her reaction, the Junko on the screen sneered before continuing:

“I guarantee you, Mukuro, I am 100% serious. And while it would certainly affect my plans, I can always find a way around it. After all, I had to plan for if someone managed to kill you during the game. So rest assured, I will get by without you if need be.”

Her sister’s cold, unfeeling words dug into Mukuro like newly sharpened knives, twisting and turning inside her until she felt that her body was going to collapse. A chill ran down her spine as she realized that, contrary to her previous belief, she was expendable.

Frozen in place, she could only stand there as the voice of Junko from the video continued:

“However…”

Mukuro lifted her gaze and stared directly at the screen, unable to turn away. To her shock, Junko was looking directly at the camera with a serious but concerned expression.

“…I would like to avoid that if all possible. You’re my sister, after all. And I don’t want to have to lose you. I lost you once before…and I don’t want to have that happen again.”

Utter confusion warped Mukuro’s features as she heard her sister’s heartfelt confession. Never in all her life had she heard Junko express such honesty with her. And though there was a little voice in her head that said that her sister was merely lying to gain her favor, at that time, Mukuro couldn’t care less.

Junko had entrusted her with a task and tested her several times, a few of which she’d failed. This was obviously the final test to see if she could live up to her sister’s expectations. Mukuro had no one but herself to blame. After all, if she had just done as her sister had expected and killed one of her classmates sooner; she wouldn’t be forced to kill the only student that actually seemed to…care…about her…

“Is that why it has to be Makoto?” she pondered carefully, unsure of what to think. “Because he smiled at me…because he’s hopeful…because he’s a threat? Why did I never see that before? Why do I still not see him as a threat?!”

With all these new thoughts tormenting her, the video of Junko finally relayed it’s last message:

“Whelp, my job is done here! Good luck to you, sis! Make me proud!”

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*

And without further adieu, the video cut out, with those famous words at the end of it. It was most likely there so that if anyone happened to see it, it wouldn’t look suspicious but that mattered little to Mukuro right now.

She had barely realized that everyone around her was already finished and were arguing about if these videos were even true. And for a brief moment, Mukuro’s overly active mind actually dared to think that the threat might have been fake too. However, she knew that was a stupid thought.

“I…I made this choice all on my own. And now…I have to live with the consequences of that choice.”

Lifting her gaze up and turning toward everyone else, she hardened her features as she looked directly at Makoto. Taking in all of his features, listening as he too insisted that this was all fake, Mukuro knew that this would be the first time in all her life that she wouldn’t be killing to survive.

And whether or not she was aware of it, her hands began shaking as somewhere deep in her subconscious, for the first time in all of her life…she doubted herself.


 

“…For Sayaka, there’s absolutely no place left for her to return to. So here’s big question…what, oh what, could have caused her beloved idol group to fall to pieces?”

*Look for the Answer after Graduation!*

Sayaka’s entire body trembled as she watched her closest friends and rivals lying on the floor, unmoving. She had barely heard Monokuma’s jeer and with almost robotic movement, she pulled the headphones from her head, letting them fall from her grasp and onto the console. Her mind tried to deny what she’d seen, tried to force away the images that had burned into her retinas.

However, every time she squeezed her eyes shut, that horrific picture of her fellow idols appeared, unwilling to leave her be. And in that instant, Sayaka felt something deep within her snap.

At that very moment, a gentle hand landed on her shoulder, sending a way of shock through her body. Without thinking, she jerked her entire body away from whoever had touched her and flung herself backward, her back making brutal contact with the wall. She didn’t have the willpower to lift her head or courage to see who it was that had tried to get her attention.

Sayaka was consumed with a single thought that bubbled up inside her until it unintentionally burst out.  

“I…I have to get out of here! I have to get out of here right now! I can’t…I can’t be stuck here any longer!!!”

As she shouted her proclamation, she tore from the room, leaving all of her fellow classmates with a horrific feeling of unease.


 

“S-Sayaka! Wait!” Makoto called after her, still very startled that she had reacted so violently to his comforting gesture. As he prepared to head off after her, a harsh voice deterred him.

“Leave her be. There’s no point in going after her,” Byakuya sternly advised, not truly caring either way.

Startled by his classmate's lack of empathy, the Ultimate Lucky Student fired back, “I can’t do that! She’s my friend!”

And without further interruption, Makoto also sped out of the room, calling out for Sayaka far into the distance.


 

Far away on a higher floor, watching the entire event unfold with bated breath, Junko could barely contain her ecstasy as the despair of her former classmates washed over her in waves.

“And with that…ahhhhh, the game truly beings!!!”

Her ecstatic moaning echoed throughout the surveillance room as she finally felt a small taste of the despair she was certain was to come.

Chapter Text

 

Mukuro knew that there was absolutely no time to waste. She had to find Makoto before nighttime came. If she waited any longer, she might lose the resolve to…kill him.

The instant she thought that, her body felt heavy but she forced it to advance. Her legs felt as though they were made of lead as she practically stomped toward the dorms. She had to keep moving, keep focused on her task without wavering. She pushed aside any inklings of emotional thought as she resolved herself to do what her sister had requested—No, demanded of her.

“This is a battlefield,” she repeated over and over in her head like a mantra, “I am a soldier…and I will carry out my duty. Kill or be killed.”

Her emotions had almost completely shut down, anything that could distract her from her mission was buried deep within, not allowed to resurface until her task was complete. And with heavy steps, she continued to search for Mako—her target.

She knew he ran off after Sayaka and worried she would find them together, which would make her task more complicated. Almost on cue, as the disguised Mukuro passed through the door leading to the dorms, she spotted an obviously distressed Sayaka heading into the cafeteria, alone.

The Ultimate Pop Sensation was a mess but at least she seemed to have calmed herself.

“No doubt due to Makoto’s influence—”

Mukuro abruptly slapped herself across the face, forcing away any thoughts concerning her target. If she let those emotions back in now, they would jeopardize her entire mission. And she would not fail Junko…not this time!

Realizing this was the perfect time to strike, Mukuro almost broke out into a run as she headed for Makoto’s room. There was no guarantee that he had returned to his room but the soldier’s keen instincts were not to be doubted. It was the most likely place to find the target and sure enough, she found his door slightly ajar, meaning he’d only just returned. After only knocking on his door once, she heard his voice call from within.

“I-I’m coming! Just a second!”

In almost any other situation, Mukuro would have scoffed and questioned why he didn’t even bother to ask who had come to see him. But then again, Makoto’s optimistic nature is what made him so special to begin with—

Mukuro dug her fake red nails harshly into her palms, the skin barely able to keep from being torn.

“You’re not this weak! This is just another mission! When he opens the door, move in and—!”

Before she could finish that thought, the door swung open and Mukuro’s eyes widened at what she saw.

Makoto, whose voice a moment ago was strong and confident, looked exactly the opposite as he stared back at her. His hair was disheveled, possibly from pressing it into his pillow and despite the pleasant smile on his face, he couldn’t hide unease that radiated off him in waves. And even more distracting…was the fact that his eyes were strained and red, his face moist from what she only assumed were fresh tears.

In that moment, the Ultimate Soldier lost all will to kill, her emotions flooding in and taking over her judgment.

“I can’t…I…I just…I know I have to…but I can’t!”

Her entire body was frozen in place as Makoto continued to gently smile at her from just inside his room. He looked at her expectantly, obviously wondering why he’d been called out. Mukuro knew she needed to say something but the words failed her…all she could do was stare at the warm, yet fragile smile.

“Uh…is there something you need Junko?” Makoto finally worked up the nerve to ask, still very much surprised by her sudden appearance. His careful words snapped the disguised woman to her senses and she averted her gaze before huffing.

“I-It’s nothing really. I just…I wanted to say…uh, that…” she trailed off, desperately trying to come up with an excuse. And just as she was about to be overcome with embarrassment, she suddenly recalled their altercation yesterday. “I-I wanted to apologize for being such a jerk yesterday in the laundry room! So there! My bad!”

Without another word, she turned on a heel and headed directly for her room, which was thankfully only a few feet away. However, before she managed to reach the handle of her door, a hand suddenly gripped her arm and she spun around, ready to attack as always. But once again, she forced her reflexes to stop as, like she had expected, Makoto was now grasping her arm.

“W-What?! I already told you I was sorry! What more do you want?!” she protested, jerking her arm away and doing her best to appear angry.

However, she felt the heat rising in her cheeks and knew her face was flushed. She was about to tell him off again and disappear into her room when she saw him casually wipe away the last hints of moisture from his eyes, a bright smile overtaking his face as he looked at her.

“S-Sorry, I just wanted to say, thanks for worrying about me,” he said to her, continuing to smile warmly. If he had left it at that, Mukuro could have shrugged it off and departed, but he had to let his smile widen and finish, “And if you ever need someone to talk to or just want to hang out, I’m just right across the hall.”

He ended his comment with his typical nervous laugh, probably thinking he sounded pretty stupid, telling an ultra famous model that he’d be there if she needed him. But it wasn’t stupid and it wasn’t unappreciated at all…at least not to Mukuro.

In fact, for a faction of a second, she completely lost herself in the warmth and vibrancy of Makoto’s smile and though many warning signals fired off in her brain, she couldn’t stop herself from reciprocating.

As her lips upturned, returning his sweet gesture, she felt her mind ease for the first time since the killing game began and she couldn’t stop herself as she replied, “Thanks, Makoto. If I do decide to kill someone, I promise that it won’t be you…”

The instant those words were uttered, the atmosphere between them completely changed…but for entirely different reasons.

Makoto immediately lost that mesmerizing smile and was instantly on guard, which was completely understandable. Mukuro was brought back to her situation and realized she had just promised the exact opposite of what she knew needed to be done.

“D-Don’t say scary stuff like that!” Makoto blurted out, obviously put off and wary of her now.

Knowing that her options were limited, Mukuro decided that the best way to resolve this situation…was by playing her part. Letting a mischievous grin spread over her features, she held up her hand in a peace sign and gave a cheeky laugh.

“Oh don’t freak out! I was only kidding! Geez, you need to lighten up a little.”

Hearing her words, Makoto slightly tilted his head in confusion, unsure if she was being honest or not. His perplexed visage offered her the perfect opportunity to flee, and so she spun around, pulled her door open and proceeded inside.


 

Sayaka quickly exited the cafeteria, the large kitchen knife nestled carefully against her stomach. She barely even noticed Sakura and Hina eyeing her as she left. Her heart was pounding and her mind was racing. She practically stumbled down the hallway back toward her room, knowing she would need to come up with a convincing story before heading to Makoto’s room. A part of her even questioned why she needed to fabricate a story for him to swallow…

“He’ll let me in…I know he will…he’ll believe anything I tell him…”

Even so, she didn’t have the courage to head straight for his room, even if there was absolutely no one in the hallway to witness her going to his room. She didn’t want to take that chance, she had to make sure there were no mistakes…when she turned on him.

“This is my only chance…he’s the only one…who’d let me get close enough…to…to…to kill!!”


 

Quickly shutting the door behind her, she pressed her back against the door, fearing that he might actually try to follow after her.

“Dammit…Dammit!!!!”

Her chest heaving and her heart beating furiously against her ribcage, the Ultimate Soldier waited to see what would happen next. To her relief, Makoto seemed to have gotten the hint and didn’t pursue her once she entered her own room. However, she could still feel her face was flushed and sweat soaked into the pink wig covering her head.

She didn’t know how long she stood there, back pressed against that door as she regained her breath. However, after she felt her breathing stabilize, something unexplainable happened…she got angry.

Gritting her teeth tightly, she felt a low growl work its way out of her throat. In a matter of moments, it grew louder and louder until she found herself screaming in frustration!

“HRRRRAAAAHHHHH!”

Her hand shot up to her wig and she furiously ripped it from her head, the pins underneath that held it in place flying in all directions. With no hesitation, she flung the moistened wig across the room, the pink fluff smacking into the wall with a wet thud. Running both hands through her slick black hair, Mukuro fought to bring herself under control when a familiar voice called out.

“My, my, my, this is unexpected. I never imagined you’d get so frustrated over such a simple task.”

The Ultimate Soldier froze as the voice of her sister rang out and she snapped her head up to see Monokuma sitting on her bed, acting as a go between for the twin sisters. Strangely, the bear wasn’t keeping itself occupied with anything, merely sitting there calmly and staring at her.

Unfortunately, this meant that Junko had been waiting for her to return, and patiently it would seem. That alone was foreboding but the fact that her sister was questioning her made it all the more terrifying.

Mukuro’s mouth hung open, lips quivering as she tried to form words that wouldn’t come. She’d been caught and there was no escaping it.

She had no explanation for her sudden burst of anger, or at least none that Junko would accept without losing faith in her. It wasn’t so easy to say, ‘The boy was crying so I couldn’t kill him’, when she’d done the same to many of her targets in the past. Never mind that Junko would only grow suspicious of her for such a failing to complete a task that should have been done by now.

After all, Mukuro never showed mercy to her enemies, even if they had cried and begged for their lives, she still ended them without any hesitation. And yet, a single boy’s smile had stopped her cold before she even had a chance to get close to him. It proved one thing at the very least.

Whether he knew it or not, Makoto had influence over his fellow students.

“Perhaps that’s why Junko wanted him dead to begin with…” Mukuro quickly thought as she continued to try and explain herself.

However, before she managed to get even a syllable out, the black paw of Monokuma raised itself up in a gesture of silencing her. A heavy sigh came out of the bear as Junko spoke through the plush toy.

“You know, I figured that your little crush on Makoto would make you hesitate. But I never imagined it would paralyze you and keep you from fulfilling your duty.”

Rather than be shocked, Mukuro gritted her teeth in frustrated embarrassment. It was no surprise that Junko knew of her attraction to Makoto. They were sisters after all, and there were things that were obvious even if neither of them said a single word. Even so, it didn’t stop the soldier from feeling even more helpless and weak at that moment.

Gathering her courage, Mukuro lifted her gaze, glared at the bear and replied, “I’ll admit, he caught me off guard…and I failed this time. However—”.

“No need to defend yourself. I’m glad you didn’t kill him.”

The Ultimate Soldier froze as her sister’s words invaded her ears. Surprise warped her features and she could only stare at the bear that resounded with her sister’s voice as it continued.

“You were just rushing to get it over with. Even if you had killed him, there would have been no way for you to cover it up. Sure, you would have thought of something but I doubt it would have ended well for you. And I’m sorry but if you get voted for in a class trial…I can’t save you.”

“W-Wait…what?” Mukuro managed to choke out, her face blanching. “You…You mean that…”

Before she could finish, Monokuma leapt off the bed and promptly landed on the floor before tilting its head quizzically at the soldier.

“Did you think you were exempt from the class trial? Did you really plan to kill Makoto without even taking the time to think of a way to cover it up?” Junko asked, her voice disappointed yet entirely serious.

Her sister’s cold tone sent chills down her spine and it took Mukuro a moment to realize that Junko had just confirmed her worst fear.

“H-Hold on!” the Ultimate Soldier desperately pleaded, fearful and confused. “What about our failsafe?! I thought that we initiated it so that when the first trial happens, I would get pulled from the game and not be punished if our classmates make the wrong choice!”

Monokuma gave a light shrug as Junko’s voice continued, “That’s only the case if you aren’t the first killer. I mean, it would be incredibly unfair of us to make them go through a class trial without the culprit present!”

Mukuro suddenly felt faint as her mind began spinning, unable to comprehend this new turn of events. Her shoulder pressed into the wall next to her, keeping her upright as she felt all of her strength fade. Her blue eyes dilated slightly she took slow breaths, the only form of coping she could muster.

“So then…you’re saying that if I kill someone—”.

“In this case, Makoto!” her sister chirped.

Grunting slightly, Mukuro continued, “—then I have to play the game. Become the blackened and try to escape at the cost of our classmates lives…”

“Well, yeah! That’s how the game works! I mean, I thought that the reason you stopped yourself was because you realized that and wanted to wait for a better opportunity…was I wrong?”

Even though Junko said it so innocently, the soldier could feel the skepticism in her sister’s voice, mocking her for not realizing what should have been obvious. And because of that, anger rose up in Mukuro as she pushed off the wall to stand up straight, her eyes narrowing at the bear.

“Why did you give me a time limit then?! If you knew I needed to play the game accordingly, you shouldn’t have forced me to plan a murder in only a day!” she fired back, letting her rage consumer her judgment.

“Because Makoto is the easiest to pick off,” Junko reasoned, her voice already tired of having to explain. “He’d go along with anyone who asked him to meet anywhere! He’s sooooo trusting and its sooooo lame! Hell, anyone could do it at this point! Even with so little time to plan!”

An involuntary flinch seized Mukuro as the subtle jab for her hesitation sunk in. In reality, the reason she had lashed out wasn’t exactly clear to her.

“Even so, I’m just a soldier. I’m not used to planning out murders or even executing them. I take the lives of others…that’s been my purpose.” She paused for a moment before taking a deep breath and finishing, “But it’s different here. With all of my classmates surrounding us and some of them growing suspicious of others, it’s becoming a less than ideal battlefield.”

There was a heavy silence for a moment as Mukuro considered her own words.

She felt weakened here, restrained even. On a true battlefield, one fought for their life and those who survived were the one able to adapt and learn how to kill the enemy. But, unlike the battlefield, this school was a place of deception and secrecy. One couldn’t simply pull a knife to defend themselves without fear of facing a class trial, though her fellow students were unaware of that as of yet.

Moreover, this place lacked something that Mukuro desperately needed…Challenge!

In war, she thrived on the feeling of hunting her enemies, fighting them to the bitter end only to emerge victorious and claim their lives as her trophies. For her, there was no greater feeling than battling a worthy adversary, discovering their weaknesses and exploiting them to achieve victory.

The struggle to survive…that is what made Mukuro feel the most alive! She didn’t care about the outcome or the despair that the struggle brought…only that fight for survival that she had never failed to achieve. If anything, the struggle for survival was more intoxicating than even the greatest despair that Junko so loved.

That is what made Mukuro Ikusaba feel as though she had something to live for. Even now, she was fighting a losing battle for Junko’s affections, and the struggle for it was almost as intoxicating as the prize itself. That and only that made her feel the euphoric pleasure that Junko derived from despair!

I have to earn my sister’s affection. Otherwise it’s completely meaningless!” Mukuro quietly reminded herself, her body heating up just thinking about it.

Reminding herself of that resolve, she slowly turned to glance at Monokuma and to her utter shock, she saw that the demented bear was now glaring furiously at her. Taken back by the sudden change in attitude, she found herself speechless as the bear shook its head and Junko’s voice sighed through it.

“My dear sister …Why do you insist on referring to those pathetic bastards as ‘classmates’? Hmm?”

It was only for an instant, but as she said those words, Mukuro’s eyes slightly widened before quickly hiding her surprise. However, the camera lens in Monokuma’s eyes captured the whole affair and though her sister would never know it, Junko scowled fearsomely at the display.

“I know that neither you nor I hold any particular hatred for them, but addressing them as if they are equals seems…unbecoming, if you get my meaning.”

Despite how much she tried not to, humiliation began to well up inside Mukuro at her sister’s pin-point accusation.

It wasn’t until now that the Ultimate Soldier realized that she had been holding onto the thought of how her classmates had been before their minds were wiped. She didn’t see them as the strangers they saw her as. And even if she didn’t say it, she also couldn’t see them as anything less than Class 78, her fellow students that she had spent so much time with.

However, she quickly realized that that particular way of thinking was dangerous. They were no longer her classmates or friends or even acquaintances!

They were her targets.

When she had been in Fenrir, the concept of anyone being a target had been simple and clear. A target was not a person or group of people; they were creatures that had to be put down for the sake of the cause, whatever cause they had been paid to fight for at the time. And Mukuro had never failed to achieve the mission she and her mercenary companions were given.

This time, however, the cause she and her sister fought for was despair. And no matter who these young men and women were to either of them in the past was immaterial. That should have been obvious and all this time she had thought she understood that.

However, the realization that she hadn’t been seeing her classmates as targets was not only unwelcome, it was an embarrassment. If Junko hadn’t of pointed it out…she wasn’t sure if she would have ever realized it.

Standing there, frozen in place and teetering on the brink of despair, Mukuro suddenly heard her sister call out to her.

“Mukuro…if it’s all too much for you, I can pull you from the game.”

An audible gasp escaped the soldier’s mouth as she snapped her head back to the half and half bear. For a fraction of a second, Mukuro allowed herself to feel relieved but she quickly realized that feeling as such was beyond foolish.

This is another of Junko’s tests!” she furiously thought, her features slowly transforming and hardening with resolve. “I have been enough of a disappointment...for the both of us! So, if it’s for Junko then…then…

In the midst of her thoughts, Junko’s voice resounded from the bear again, “We’d have to do it in front of the other students but it’s certainly doable. So, if you think you can’t handle—”.

“I’ll stay.”

Junko’s voice abruptly ceased and the bear’s eyes shot over to see Mukuro glaring at it fiercely. Her sky blue hues were even more dangerous than usual and the hint of despair lying in them was enough to entrance Junko long enough for her sister to finish.

“I’ll finish my task. I…won’t disappoint you.”

The shock and hesitation from a moment ago had vanished as she spoke, clearly surprising her sister with such a determined statement. And even though she couldn’t see her sister’s face, it was obvious that Junko hadn’t been expecting her to refuse so adamantly. After all, the choice was meant to bring despair, not resolution.

However, if it did bother Junko, her voice showed no hint of it as the bear shrugged and said for her, “Do whatever you want then. Just remember that you’ve only got about 18 hours left before—”.

“I’m aware of that…” Mukuro cut her off, walking past the bear and toward her closet.

Pulling it open, her eyes brightened as an array of assorted military weapons glimmered on the walls and doors of the wooden closet. Knives of all shapes and sizes, hand-guns and magnums galore, even larger grade projectile launchers were carefully stowed within. All at once a wave of euphoria struck her as she felt the anticipation of the struggle to come.

Deep down, a part of her reeled in disgust at this feeling, knowing that it would come at the cost of a life. The life of a boy whom had smiled at her like no other.

“Makoto…”

In an instant, the euphoric feeling faded as she shook her head and narrowed her gaze. Any one of these deadly weapons would be enough to send the boy to the next life, and with her disguise, no one would suspect her as the culprit. Even if they did, she knew the proper way to dispose of each and every weapon in her arsenal.

However, she wasn’t here for any of them, save for a small metal box tucked away in the back. Tugging it out from its hiding place, Mukuro carefully undid the clasps on either side before slowly opening it.

Inside, a long combat knife sat pristinely in the indent. What would have been the blunt edge on the opposite side had a row of jagged edges, almost making it a double sided blade. Dull scratches and markings littered the side of the blade and the handle seemed worn and ready to crack.

Picking up the knife and glaring at the sharpened edge, Mukuro barely ran her finger along the cutting edge of the blade. Pulling her finger away, a thin line of blood began to run down the length of her finger.

“Even in this condition…it’s as sharp as ever,” Mukuro marveled to herself before her concentration was broken by a surprised voice.

“Oh! Now that’s something I never thought I’d see again!” Junko’s voice resounded through the room, genuine shock encompassing her. However, it vanished as Monokuma grinned wide and it’s master’s voice continued, “Then again, I’m used to seeing it covered in blood and sweat. It looks like you haven’t been taking very good care of it either.”

An involuntary shudder overtook the solider as her sister’s words brought back memories she shared with this particular knife. If she had been facing the bear, then Junko would have gotten to see the despair that came with those memories. Fortunately, Mukuro was able to regain her composure rather quickly, closing the metal box and returning it to its hiding spot.

“Hmph,” Mukuro scoffed as she closed the door to her closet and marched past the bear, taking a seat at her dresser. “If you don’t mind, I have work to do.”

Pulling open a small drawer, she reached in and produced a small kit marked with a wolf. Flicking it open, a wide variety of tools became visible. A whetstone for sharpening, polish for the rustic blade, and replacement handle pieces complete with screws.

Wasting no time, the Ultimate Soldier began repairs on the blade, leaving an increasingly bored Monokuma to look on. Unexpectedly, the bear stood there for a time, just staring at Mukuro as she worked on restoring the blade to its former glory. All the while, the soldier ignored it, deciding to remain focused on her task.

Just as the air began to thicken between them, Monokuma threw up its paws and waddled toward the door.

“Okay then! I’ll be going for tonight,” Monokuma suddenly said, it’s usual cutesy voice returning as it opened the door and prepared to leave. Just before exiting however, the bear turned around and practically snickered as it said, “Just be sure to get enough rest. Tomorrow will be a big day…”

Something in Monokuma’s words startled Mukuro’s concentration but before she had a chance to react, the bear departed.

With the demented bear gone, the Ultimate Soldier clenched her jaw and gritted her teeth. Mentally, she felt ashamed for having failed her sister and with that in mind, she raised a hand and furiously slapped herself across the face.

As a tint of redness formed on her cheek, she furrowed her brows and whispered, “No more. I won’t let myself show weakness again.”

Staring down at the rustic knife, her hands began to shake before she grasped the blade tightly to steady herself. Suppressing her emotions for the good of her mission, Mukuro slowly resumed her work, letting herself be consumed by it.

“…I can’t let it all be for nothing. I have to finish what I started. I won’t fail Junko again…never again…”


 

“…I have to get out of here…I have to get out of here…I know that…but…”

Sayaka sat at Makoto’s desk, her eyes downcast and filled with confliction. In her lap, the kitchen knife she’d stolen earlier sat, completely clean. It should have been murky, covered in the blood of her foolishly trusting friend, Makoto. That’s what she’d planned after all.

Faking that someone was after her, getting Makoto alone in his room, stabbing him from behind when she got the chance, that was what she thought she was going to do.

Instead, she asked him to switch rooms, used sweets words of praise to gain even more of his trust and let him leave without even trying to stop him. No doubt he was already in her room, probably sleeping in her bed and reveling in her scent or something strange that boys do when they’re alone.

Why? Why had this happened? Why wasn’t she able to just stab him and get it over with?!

She’d been using him from the beginning anyway...hadn’t she? The only reason she’d befriended him was just a way to cope with this desperate situation. Yeah, that must have been why she’d done it. And, of course, offering to be his assistant was merely a way to earn his trust…there wasn’t any…other reason. Even though she never considered killing him before seeing her video, the fact was that he was nothing more than a tool to her…right?

“…Then why the hell couldn’t I kill him?!” she shouted at herself, thankful for the soundproof rooms.

However, before the words left her mouth, she already knew the answer…and that’s what hurt the most.

Makoto was good, pure and honest. He was everything that she so desperately wanted to be. Sure, she appeared that way to so many…but she knew how rotten and disfigured her soul truly was. Many of her rivals had fallen victim to her ruthlessness during auditions. Even her own band mates were cautious of her when she was angry.

But Makoto was different. He wasn’t anything more or less than himself and he was genuinely a nice and caring person. He was the kind of person she had always strived to be, but fell mercilessly short.

That’s why, when Makoto smiled at her and told her he would get them both out, she truly believed him. Even though she was already planning to use him for her escape, she did really believe that, given enough time, he would have found a way to save them both.

However, she couldn’t wait for him to find a way. She needed to know that her closest friends were alright and that the video was a lie. Her mind was consumed with that thought and it drove her to collect the kitchen knife and go straight to his room afterward.

And, as luck would have it, she found him outside his room, talking to Junko of all people.

Makoto was being his usual self, offering to help the fashion model with whatever was troubling her. Sayaka had watched as the two separated and they headed back to their rooms. This was the perfect chance for her to strike!

However, just before Makoto opened his door, she was shocked to see him pull up his sleeve to his face, wiping away moisture from his eyes. It was then that Sayaka finally noticed his reddened face and the melancholy expression he bore as he entered his room.

“Wait…was he…crying?” she had thought after his door had closed, leaving her alone in the hallway.

The pure and honest Makoto…had been crying his eyes out? But why? What could he have to—?

Sayaka’s blue eyes widened as a thought occurred to her. “He wasn’t…trying to think of a way to get me out…but he couldn’t think of one and so he…”

Shaking her head, she tried to deny that he was weeping out of sadness or frustration. However, no matter how hard she tried, it was obvious that the weight of the promise she’d forced upon him was taking a huge toll on him. Her own words rang in her mind, recalling what she’d made him swear to.

“Promise me that, no matter what, you’ll always be on my side!”

“Makoto…” she whispered to herself, feeling guilt for her actions for the first time since she’d arrived.

And in that instant, somewhere deep inside, she realized she couldn’t kill him. That’s why she’d switched rooms and was now, once again, alone with her dark thoughts.

“What…what do I do now?!” she screamed, slamming her fists onto the desk. “I have to get out of here! But…but…”

She’d lost what might be her only opportunity to kill someone and be set free. No one else trusted her enough to be alone with her. She’d barely spoken to anyone else, spending so much time with Makoto. The only other person she’d even really talked to was—

“…Leon.”

A gasp escaped her as a plan already began to formulate in her mind. Without much hesitation, she reached for the pad of paper and pen on the desk in front of her.


 

Junko Enoshima was getting bored…not because the game wasn’t progressing but because she was losing faith that her sister would be able to play her role. Staring at the monitor in front of her, the despair loving woman pursed her lips before breathing a heavy sigh.

Mukuro was still hard at work, polishing and sharpening that knife of hers that held more meaning than anyone else would know. Of course, Junko also understood its significance, which is why she elected to remain silent about using it.

After all, it was going to bring such lovely despair to both the wielder and it’s victim. However, the fact that Mukuro brought it out all together was disheartening.

“If this keeps up, she’s going to become a liability,” Junko murmured to herself, glancing over at another screen that deeply held her interest.

She had considered that her sister might not be able to fulfill the role properly and thus, decided that having a backup would be necessary. And of all the students, she couldn’t imagine a better mole to manipulate.

“Then again, I suppose that’s why I have you. Isn’t that right, Miss Ultimate Martial Artist?”

She smirked at the screen before hopping up from her chair and heading for the Monokuma control room.

Completely unbeknownst to her, on another screen not far away, Sayaka came into view just long enough to slip a piece of paper underneath a certain someone’s door.


 

“You would like me to…sleep over?” Sakura Ogami asked carefully, unsure if she had heard correctly.

Nervously fidgeting with her hands, Hina slowly nodded her head. “I-I mean, don’t feel pressured or anything! I just…I just thought it would be nice to, you know, hang out for a while?”

Sakura could only smile as she watched the only friend she had here desperately trying to hide how nervous she was. Hina was bluntly obvious about everything and always spoke her mind, so when she was trying to cover up her own anxiety, it shows through even more.

However, Sakura knew the source of her anxiety and therefore decided to consent to her request. Besides, Hina would never give in to temptation and murder anyone. She was too good of a person for that.

“Very well. Let me get a few things from my room and I’ll be right over.”

Hina’s face lit up with absolute excitement and she had to stop herself from jumping with joy as she replied, “All right, cool! I’ll meet you back at my room then. Just knock and tell me it’s you and I’ll let you right in!”

With a spring in her step, Hina bounded off down the hall toward her room. Left standing just outside the cafeteria, Sakura smiled warmly before lightly shaking her head and advancing toward her own room.

Even though it was at the end of the hall, it was still a short trip and she expected it would only take a few moments to gather her belongings.

Opening the door to her room and shutting it promptly, Sakura was about to pull open her closet when a loathsome voice called out to her.

“Wow, so this is what it’s like being in a muscle-bound martial artist’s room. I expected more Bruce Lee posters, honestly.”

Instantly on guard, Sakura spun around and assumed an aggressive fighting stance before glaring furiously at the source of the voice.

You. What are you doing in my room, Monokuma?!” she furiously shouted at the demented bear as it stood on her bed to try and match up to her height, failing in that regard.

“Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just paying a house call to one of my favorite students,” the bear reasoned, holding its hands up in mock surrender.

Slamming her fist into the wall, indenting the metal hidden beneath the sheet rock, Sakura gritted her teeth and seethed, “Enough of your games! Tell me why you’re in my room?!”

Shuddering in apparent fear, Monokuma waved its arms defensively and answered, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Just calm down, Miss Ogami! I’m here because my students are all confused about those DVDs you all got!”

At the mention of the videos, the Ultimate Martial Artist flinched, recalling her own. Removing her hand from the wall, she stood up straight and folded her arms menacingly, ready to resume her stance and battle at any moment. She would take no chances with such a dangerous foe.

Glaring down at the bear, she calmed herself enough to say, “Is that why you’re here? To taunt me?”

“Oh goodness, no!” Monokuma falsely claimed, it’s voice becoming more annoying by the moment. “I just wanted to answer a question that all of my students have been asking about those videos.”

Sakura could already see though Monokuma’s intentions but knew that lashing out would only make the situation worse for her. After all, if she was here too long, Hina might come looking for her and stumble upon this. If that happened, everyone, including Hina, would grow suspicious of her. And as such, she would not be able to protect them if it ever came down to that.

Perhaps that’s what the bear wanted and Sakura was determined not to let it happen. She had promised herself to be strong for everyone and fight for them if need be, she would not let the deranged mastermind have their way with her classmates!

To that extent, she decided to let the bear get to his point.

“And, since you’re my favorite—” Sakura groaned at hearing this but let the bear continue, “—I thought that you should be the first to know.”

“And what would that be?” the martial artist questioned, narrowing her gaze.

Waving for her to come closer, which she reluctantly did, Monokuma put up its paws and whispered loudly, “Those videos…are all true!

Hardening her visage, Sakura was about to tell the bear off when he abruptly continued.

“And of course, the image of your dojo was accurate as well.” Putting it’s paws on it’s sides, Monokuma boldly proclaimed, “As of right now, I am the official owner of that formerly historic dojo!!”

Hearing this, Sakura felt something in her mind snap. An aura of immense power seemed to flow out of her as she clenched her fists. Her teeth grit tightly as she reared her arm back and shouted, “BASTARD!!!!”

With lightning speed, the Ogre slammed her fist into her bed, splintering it into a million pieces. However, her intended target, Monokuma, flipped over her head and landed gracefully by the door. Caught up in her rage, Sakura spun around and was about to launch herself at her foe when the bear held up a piece of paper with her family’s crest on it.

Barely able to stop herself, Sakura could only stand there as Monokuma began to explain.

“This document transfers ownership of your family’s dojo to one, Mr. Monokuma. It’s all perfectly legal and in binding print.”

Feeling her rage increase once more, the martial artist shouted, “And you expect me to believe this is real?!”

Shrugging it’s shoulders, Monokuma continued, “Whether you believe it or not is up to you. However, I have to say that I really don’t have any need for that place. I mean, have you seen it lately? Even my recent remodel didn’t make it any less filthy!”

Although the bear’s words sparked anger, Sakura couldn’t help but recall her DVD. Particularly the various broken board and Monokuma-esque drawings that were plastered on the walls and floors. Just as she felt herself building up rage for another attack against the bear, it rolled up the paper and held it out to her.

“So, I’ve decided that I want to give that crappy dojo back to you. Isn’t that nice of me?” Monokuma said, practically beaming menacingly.

For a moment, Sakura couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Then again, she couldn’t truly believe anything this bear told to her but this was the most unbelievable yet! Even so, she couldn’t deny the hint of relief that came with this sudden offer.

However, it was immediately replaced with suspicion upon remembering whom she was dealing with. And so, instead of reaching out for the paper, as the bear most certainly wanted, Sakura instead decided to place her arms at her side and merely glare down at the conniving bear.

“…And what do I have to do for you in exchange?”

For a brief instant, a hint of surprise warped Monokuma’s features, obviously not expecting such an intelligent answer. However, it was gone within a moment, replaced with a maniacal grin as it pulled the paper back and seemed to tuck it away behind it’s back.

“You caught on quicker than I would have liked, but no matter.” Walking over to stand directly in front of Sakura, the bear looked up at her and said, “I propose a simple trade for your dojo.”

“What kind of trade?” the martial artist asked offensively, half-prepared for any kind of demand.

Her worst fears were confirmed as Monokuma reared its head back and laughed manically, “Upupupupupupupu! What have I been asking of all of you since this little game began?”

Even though the implication was enough, Sakura still felt the need to confirm it with words.

“You want me to kill one of my classmates,” she said firmly, making it not a question but a certainly. Surprising, Monokuma didn’t even react to her words, tilting its head to the side as if in thought.

“Hmmm, that may be necessary later but that’s not exactly what I had in mind.”

Shock overtook Sakura as she heard this and she immediately questioned, “But, isn’t that what you have been asking of us since we were first imprisoned here?”

Looking over at the martial artist, Monokuma gave a confused look and answered, “Actually, I never asked any of you to kill anyone. I asked you all to live here in peace but gave you a way out just in case. Am I wrong?”

Sakura felt her rage returning at how the bear was twisting the facts. She wanted to question why the loathsome creature kept taunting them if that’s all it really wanted but there was a more prominent question to be answered.

“So then, what is it that you want me to do then? Just live in peace with my fellow students?” she finally asked, still not believing the bear’s lies.

“Well, to be more precise…I want you to do just that!” Monokuma shouted with glee, doing a spinning motion for a second before facing her again. “Only I want to hear alllllll about it later! You know, because we’re so close and you are my favorite student!”

Once again, there was no need for Sakura to ask for clarification. She, unfortunately, was smart enough to read between the lines. Closing her eyes and scowling, she slowly said, “So then…you want me to spy on my friends…and report everything back to you.”

“Yup.”

The bear’s short and curt response was almost maddening but somehow, Sakura managed to keep herself under control.

“And you honestly expect me to do this for you? Just to have my family’s dojo returned to me?” she questioned further, trying a bluff.

Unfortunately, Monokuma could easily see though her and called her on it.

“If it means that you don’t bring dishonor to your entire family line…I think you’d bend over backwards and kiss your own ass if it meant getting it back!

Sakura winced at the vulgar language but could not retort. For it was true, for the most part.

The Ogami Family Dojo was an ancient and honorable place. And while serving as head of her family, it was her responsibility to safeguard it. Many had fought and died to protect it. Those sacrifices alone showed the devotion to her clan. And no matter how much it hurt her to admit, as a member of the Ogami Family, it was her duty to reclaim ownership of it…no matter the cost.

And so, if she had to betray her classmates, lie to them, do the mastermind’s bidding…even throw away her newfound friendship with Hina, she would make that sacrifice if it meant restoring her family’s dojo.

That is what it meant to be Head of the Ogami Family.

“Alright then, do we have a deal?” Monokuma disrupted her thought, holding out his black paw for her to shake. Staring down at the paw that was offered, Sakura felt something within her begin to twist and it made her hesitate.

“Hey! I don’t have all day!” the bear protested, waving it’s hand enthusiastically. “If you don’t give me an answer, I’ll burn the damn dojo to the ground!!”

Gritting her teeth and tensing, Sakura regrettably extended her hand and grabbed the paw, squeezing so tight she felt the metal inside twist. With a firm jerk, they shook and just before Monokuma was about to pull away, the bear was pulled forward and forced to meet eyes with the Ogre. She stared through the lenses and knew that she was now meeting eyes with the mastermind behind them.

Feeling that connection, she scowled fiercely and said, “Know this. I only do this out of obligation. If you expect me to enjoy being any part of this…you are sorely mistaken.”

Even if it was only for a moment, she swore she felt the mastermind tremble behind the bear’s lenses before abruptly letting go and having Monokuma tumble backwards onto its ass. Hopping up and brushing itself off, the bear did it’s best to seem unaffected as it headed for the door.

“Well then, I guess I’d better get going, for now. Wouldn’t want you to be late for you sleepover, now would I? You can tell me allllll about it tomorrow! I hope you get some good info on the swimmer girl to share!”

Once more, Sakura tensed at the bear’s words. The mastermind was keeping her on a very short leash it seemed. From this moment on, she would be monitored constantly and she would need to report everything.

However, this was also an important opportunity to gain knowledge of the mastermind. Even though the mastermind would undoubtedly never meet with her personally, Sakura was intuitive enough to pick up on subtle hints and hoped that, sooner or later, the mastermind would let something slip. Something that might be the key to everyone getting out of here.

That thought alone gave Sakura the strength to endure this. She had to, for her friends that she had now betrayed, she needed to do all she could to help them without being caught!

And so, as Monokuma opened the door to leave, she was completely unprepared when, just before the door closed, the bear poked its head in one last time.

“Oh, and by the way, if no one dies within the next 24 hours…be a pal and kill someone for me!”

Those words sent chills through Sakura’s entire body, realizing the extent of what she had just agreed to. However, before she could call out or protest, Monokuma slammed the door. Not wanting to let this slide, the Ultimate Martial Artist quickly gave chase, ripping open the door and dashing into the hall.

Scanning all directions, she furiously glared around the area but alas, she could not find the hateful bear anywhere. Her fingernails dug into her palms as she felt rage overtake her.

She had thought she was only supposed to spy on her classmates, not kill them! Only now did Monokuma’s words from earlier come back to haunt her.

“Hmmm, that may be necessary later…”

Shame overtook the proud warrior as she was forced to accept that she may as well have sealed her own fate! How could she be so foolish as to not realize the mastermind’s intentions?!

“That is not what I agreed to!” she seethed, preparing to slam her fist against the wall.

However, a fearful voice stopped her cold.

“S-Sakura! What happened?!”

Freezing in place, Sakura slowly turned to see none other than Hina staring up at her, concern plastered over her already exasperated face. For a few seconds, neither of them moved or said a word.

“H-Hina,” she finally managed to say, forcing herself to be calm. “I…I didn’t see you there.”

“Uh…yeah,” Hina replied sheepishly, trying to find the right thing to say. “I was, uh, worried when you started to take so long. I figured that something may have…you know.”

Sakura felt such shame, not only for losing her composure, but for making her friend worry for her. Even more than that, just looking at Hina’s troubled face reminded her of the arrangement she’d just accepted. She wanted to put her friend’s mind at ease but knew that telling her the truth was out of the question.

And so, she resorted to something that she had never done in her entire life…she lied to her friend.

Putting on a fresh smile, Sakura placed a gentle hand on Hina’s shoulder and said, “Your concern is appreciated but I’m afraid that this misunderstand is my fault. You see, I was searching my room for a…special protein drink that I cannot seem to find. When I realized it was gone, I became…angry.”

Hoping her lie was convincing enough, she waited patiently for Hina’s response. However, she only had to wait another instant before hearing a relieved sigh from her friend, followed by a bright and somewhat embarrassed smile.

“Oh, that’s all it was! And here I was thinking someone had attacked you or something. I feel kinda stupid now,” she confessed, nervously scratching her hair before continuing. “But I totally know how you feel! I’d be super pissed if someone took the last donut without even offering it to me!”

Breathing a quick sigh of relief that her story had been bought, Sakura removed her hand and said, “I’m sorry to have worried you over something so small. I hope you can forgive me.”

“Of course I can! That’s what friends are for, right?!” Hina bubbly answered, holding both hands up enthusiastically.

Unbeknownst to Hina, that apology was not meant for her lie but for the betrayal that she had committed. Either way, she had to continue on and decided to stand up straight before looking back at her room. She couldn’t let Hina see her room now, not with the broken bed and damaged walls. Even with her lie, it would be too difficult to explain.

“I am ready to follow you to your room, if you are ready to have me?” Sakura said convincingly, sort of wishing she could have at least brought a spare pillow. However, she was feeling in the mood to punish herself, for obvious reasons.

However, her lie worked perfectly on the ever so trusting Hina and she lit up with a shimmering in her eyes as she nodded firmly and began leading the way.

“Yeah! We’re gonna have a great time tonight! Staying up all night, talking about boys and eating lots of junk food! Especially donuts! Are you with me, Sakura?!”

“…Indeed.”

Walking patiently behind her enthusiastic friend, Sakura snuck one final glance down the hallway. Standing at the very end, Monokuma waved emphatically before disappearing behind a corner and out of sight. Balling her hands into fists, the martial artist forced herself to smile as she turned around just in time for Hina to open the door.

“Welcome to the best night of your life!” Hina insisted ushering her inside.

The instant Sakura’s face was out of Hina’s view, an intense expression of despair warped the martial artist’s features. Even if she survived this…she knew her betrayal would follow her for the rest of her life.

“I am so sorry…Hina.”


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

The baseball flew up toward the ceiling before falling back down, caught by the hand of Leon.

The Ultimate Baseball Star lay on his bed, his jacket tossed aside on a nearby chair, continually tossing the ball upwards. He had hoped that doing such a repetitive task would take his mind off things, but it only further provoked thoughts he’d rather have forgotten. And eventually, his frustration gave way.

Furiously clutching the baseball as it fell this time, he rolled on his side and angrily threw the ball against the far wall. As it bounced off and rolled to a halt, Leon grunted before falling back onto his bed and sighing.

“Seriously…how the hell did it come to this?” he wondered as he stared at the bland ceiling. “I’m a normal…well, semi-normal guy. Why the hell do I have to worry about murders and being trapped and…Kanon…”

No matter how hard he tried, every single time he closed his eyes, he saw the image from his DVD flash into view. His old friends, the only people he actually enjoyed playing baseball with, might be dead. And his cousin, who admired and respected him, was either missing…or dead as well.

It was maddening and he felt so powerless! He wanted to smash one of his baseballs directly into the camera but the fear of punishment kept him simply lying on his bed, contemplating what he should do.

“There’s no way I could kill anybody…even if it meant getting out of here and seeing if that video was for real…I’d never be able to forgive myself. But then what the hell am I supposed to—?”

As if on cue, a small knocking came at his door. A bit startled, Leon shot up from his bed and glared at his door. He was about to call out to whomever was behind the door when he saw a small piece of paper slide under it. Giving it a sideways glance, he slowly got up and walked toward the door.

Instead of instantly picking up the paper, he cautiously cracked the door to his room and looked outside, hoping to see who had come by. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a single soul outside his door.

“That figures…it’s already after nighttime.” he murmured as he closed and locked his door. “But then, who the hell…”

Leaning down and picking up the paper, he was shocked as he read over the contents:

There’s something I need to talk to you about. Just the two of us. In five minutes, meet me in my room. Check the nameplates to make sure that you don’t get the wrong room.

Sayaka Maizono

Before anything else, his eyes read the name at the bottom of the note. It was only afterward that he looked over the rest of the letter and was slightly perplexed by it. She was asking him to meet with her, alone…in her personal room.

At first he was shocked, Sayaka passing a note under his door was odd enough but looking over the contents, he began to piece together what she was trying to do.

“The music lesson!” he proudly declared, slapping the paper slightly as he went and sat on his bed. “I’d almost completely forgot! But it’s kind of a weird time to want to practice music. Considering the nighttime announcement already went off, not to mention everything that happened today…”

Suddenly, a thought sparked in Leon’s mind.

“Wait…could it be that, she wants to practice music right now because of what’s going on?!” he questioned aloud, abruptly standing up. “Yeah…yeah, that’s gotta be it! She must be having a hard time coping with all this crap too!”

A smile broke out on Leon’s face as he came to this conclusion. Of course that’s what it had to be! She needed someone there to help her and she probably chose him because they had connected before over the music training thing!

He didn’t have to think about why she didn’t ask Makoto, whom she’d spent most of her time with, to help her instead. She and Leon had the common ground of music and undoubtedly she wanted someone she could trust with that sort of understanding. Nothing against Makoto but the kid seemed to be musically…un-inclined.

Picking up his jacket and throwing his arms through the sleeves, he adjusted his clothes a bit before practically racing out into the hallway.

Slightly humming to himself as he walked down the hallway, Leon found himself feeling lighter and more carefree than he had for quite a while. The contents of his own DVD were disappearing from his mind as he began to anticipate how much fun he was going to have learning music from Sayaka…alone…in her room…that was soundproof…where no one could hear them…

Abruptly, his feet stopped moving as a new and more fearsome thought came to his mind.

“Wait a sec, getting me alone like this…could it be that…Sayaka actually has something else in mind? Could…could she really be planning to…to…to go all the way with me?!”

Leon’s face reddened slightly at the thought but he quickly letting out a cheeky laugh.

“Yeah, right! There’s no way a good girl like Sayaka would want to do that!” he said aloud, a bit saddened but not wanting to set himself up for disappointment. “And it’s not like she’d try to kill me or anything. She’s way too good of a person to fall for Monokuma’s schemes.”

Even though he had laughed it off, somewhere in the back of Leon’s mind, he still considered the possibility that Sayaka may have wanted him there for…something more. As such, as he passed by the laundry room on his way to where he thought Sayaka’s room was, he smirked to himself and decided to take a minor detour.


 

“Where the hell is he?!” Sayaka hissed from her hiding spot around the corner.

Just around the bend, she had a clear view of the door and was just waiting for that ignorant idiot to come through. The kitchen knife clutched in her hands shook as her body unconsciously trembled. Her breathing quickened with each passing moment, as she worried that her target may not actually come.

“I should have been more specific in my note!” she cursed herself, slightly rapping the back of her head against the wall. “I just told him to come here without a reason! He may get suspicious of it and wait to ask me about it tomorrow! If that happens, everyone will find out that…that I…planned to…kill him…”

As the words left her lips, Sayaka felt her arms fall to her sides, barely able to continue clutching the knife.

She’d been in such a rush to get this done but after forcing herself to write the note and pushing it under Leon’s door, she knew there was no going back. She told herself that over and over but in the end, when she thought about jumping out as he passed her and stabbing him in the back…she felt a horrific chill run up and down her spine.

However, she shook her head and gritted her teeth, unable to get the image of her fallen band mates out of her mind.

“I…I don’t have a choice!” she reasoned, lifting the knife up and gazing at her own reflection. “I…I have to get out of here! I don’t want to do this…but…but…”

This was her only chance to do this and Leon was the only one stupidly naïve enough to come to her room. That idiot was probably taking his time because he thought she was going to sleep with him or something! He was another stupid boy who only looked at her as someone he could use! It was okay to kill someone like him if it meant that she could help her friends…right?!

After all, Leon was constantly flirting with her, asking her when they could start his musician training, pleasantly greeting her each morning when he saw her…always smiling brightly and acting like an idiot…making her laugh and forgetting this horrible—

“Stop it!”

She smacked herself across the face with her free hand, first once, then twice. After slapping her reddened cheeks a third time, she huffed in frustration before gripping the knife with both hands.

“…There’s no turning back! I have to do this! I have to do this…I have to do this…I have to…”


 

Leon hummed to himself as he turned off the faucet in the laundry room. Running a hand through his dyed-red hair, he made sure that each strand was up and looking awesome. He checked his goatee to be sure there weren’t any strays sticking out and even made sure that his collar was popped up like usual.

“Oh yeah, that’s how ya do it,” he said, winking to himself in the mirror. “Now, whatever happens, I’m totally prepared for it!”

Reaching for a towel to wipe off his face, the baseball star’s hand landed on something round and smooth. Startled, he sharply retracted his hand before shooting his gaze over to see a small glass ball sitting on a pillow next to the sink. Yasuhiro…or just Hiro now, as he wanted to be called, must have left it there.

Leon let out a quick sigh of relief, only now realizing how nervous he was. He began to chuckle to himself as he finally grabbed a towel and cleaned off his face, leaning his head back smiling.

“Haha. Guess I didn’t notice how tense I—”.

His words stopped as his eyes saw the clock hanging above his head. Only now did he remember what the note had said. Five Minutes. He was supposed to meet with Sayaka in only five minutes! And he’d spent at least ten minutes sprucing up in the laundry room!

“Oh crap!”

Breaking out into a run, Leon sped out of the laundry room and made a mad dash toward other side of the dorms.

“Please don’t be pissed, please don’t be pissed, please don’t be pissed,” he chanted to himself as he rounded the corner and came to the spot where he was sure Sayaka’s room was located.

He’d only see it once, when he’d dropped off Makoto on their first day but he knew that her room was right next to his. Looking up at the nameplates, he was surprised when he saw that Sayaka’s room was actually before Makoto’s. He could have sworn that it was the other way around but then again, he hadn’t been paying too much attention to the nameplates at the time.

In any case, he was still very late and didn’t think much of it. And because he was in such a rush, he completely forgot about knocking and instead grabbed the handle to the door and pushed it open.


 

“I have to do this…I have to do this…I have to do—”.

Sayaka’s mantra was interrupted by the sounds of the door opening. A light gasp escaped her as she gripped the knife with both hands and glanced around the corner.

Leon was there, albeit very late, closing the door before turning around and nervously calling out, “Uh, hey! Sorry I’m late! I got caught up in—”.

Sayaka didn’t bother to let him finish, clutching the knife tightly in both hands before screaming at the top of her lungs and rushing around the corner. Her anxiety had gotten the better of her and she completely forgot about her plan to lure him into the main area and stab him from behind. She wanted this to be over and knew that if she didn’t strike now, she would lose the will to kill.

Shrieking like a frantic banshee, the pop idol charged toward her target, the point of her blade angled toward his chest.


 

Leon’s eyes widened with horror as he saw her approach and with his athletic reflexes, he leapt aside just as she would have pierced his chest. He barely kept his footing as he spun around to get a clear look at his attacker. Fear penetrated his soul as he identified who it was.

Meanwhile, Sayaka stumbled slightly from her failed attack but managed to come to a halt just in front of the door. Snapping her head back toward him, Leon felt himself go numb as he looked upon her face.

Her once vibrant blue irises were now dull and filled with bloodlust. Her once brilliant smile was replaced with a gruesome snarl that bore her clenched teeth. And stray strands of her long hair hung all about her face, intensifying her maddening visage.

“S-S-Sayaka?! What the hell—?!”

He didn’t have time to finish as she screamed at him once more, charging him again with her knife. This time, he practically leapt away as she swung the knife at him, the sharp edge grazing his jacket. Luckily, the attack only scrapped the material a little and he was otherwise unscathed.

He shot his gaze over to Sayaka. After failing to stab him, she tripped over her own feet due to missing her target. She stumbled and fought to keep her footing spinning around and slamming her back directly into the far wall, which was the only thing that prevented her from falling. She kept both hands on her knife as she panted heavily, her gaze downcast.

For a time, neither of them moved or said a word, the reality of the situation crashing down on both of them. Time was frozen as both of their hopes and dreams seemed to shatter.

In this brief moment of silence, Leon took a brave step toward her and shouted, “Wh-What are you doing?! You…You didn’t really—”.

“I’m sorry…”

Leon’s breath caught in his throat as Sayaka’s usually cheerful voice weakly called out to him.

And for some reason, he found himself unable to turn away and run. Every instinct told him to flee while he could, get out of there and try to wake the others if he could. Or at least get back to his own room. However, something in her voice stopped him, as if she was begging…begging for him to help her.

He was mesmerized as she slowly lifted her gaze, eyes glistening with fresh tears as she narrowed her gaze and lifted her knife. Snapping out of his reverie, he instantly began to back away from her again, his fears returning.

“I’m sorry, Leon! But I have to get out of here!”

As she screamed to him, Leon continued to back away until his back hit the counter behind him. It was then that he felt his back hit something odd. Snapping his eyes around, he saw a golden decorative sword sitting on a stand behind him. He barely had time to register it before he saw Sayaka’s movement out of the corner of his eye.

Steadying her grip and preparing to charge, she blinked away the fresh tears and shouted:

“FORGIVE ME!!!!”

With speed unlike anything he’d seen, Sayaka mercilessly rushed toward him.


 

As Sayaka charged in, ready to finish her task, she closed her eyes and thrust her blade forward.

She would do it this time. She would drive her knife through his chest and it would all be over. She would be allowed to leave. She would get out of here and see her friends again. She’d prove that those images were wrong and soon this would all be a long forgotten nightmare.

She was sure of it…until her knife stopped and the sound of wood clacking against metal reached her ears.

Her blue irises shot open and widened in horror as she saw that Leon had blocked the attack. At first she was shocked, unable to understand how he’d stopped her. However, she gasped in shock as she recognized the object the baseball star had used to parry her with.

It was the decorative sword that she had insisted that Makoto keep for self-defense!

In truth, she had indeed suggested that he keep it to protect himself, and more importantly her, should it come down to it. She had all but forgotten about it during her rushed preparations to kill her fellow student. And because of that mistake, she could feel her advantage beginning to slip from her grasp.

However, instead of backing down, she knew that she had to keep attacking in the hopes of finishing off Leon before he had a real chance to fight back!

Quickly retracting her knife, she swung at him again but this time from below. To her surprise, the baseball star noticed her movement and twisted the sheathed blade down and parried her attack again. Undeterred, she pulled the blade back and swung it at him again. But once more, Leon was able to knock away her attack.

Growing even more frustrated, Sayaka tried again and again to get through Leon’s defenses but found herself blocked at every turn. She panted and knew she was getting weaker with each failed attack. However, if she didn’t get him here, she knew he would be able to overpower her.

She had to finish this now, before he had a chance to turn the tables on her!

“Dammit!!! If you don’t die, I can’t get out!!! Just die!!!” she screamed at him, tightening her grip on the knife and lifting the blade high, she prepared to throw all of her strength into one last attack.

However, before she even had a chance to swing, a strong hand grasped both of her wrists, stopping her in an instant. Her eyes shot open to see Leon, with only one hand on the decorative sword, hold her in place with his other hand. Gasping in terror, she was certain that he was about to tear the knife from her hand and bury it into her own chest.

Much to her surprise, she heard him shouting at her instead.

“You really believed what the bear said, didn’t you?!” Leon tightened his grip on her wrists. “Do you really think that Monokuma will keep his word?! That he’ll just let you walk out of here?!”

His words penetrated her ears and invaded her mind, rattling around and cutting her deeply. She knew it was more than a long shot; a gamble that may not pay off…it could even lead to her death. Even so…even so she…she…

“WHAT OTHER CHOICE DO I HAVE?!” she shouted in his face, fresh tears streaming down her cheeks.

“You do have a choice! Trust me, I understand what you’re feeling—”

Sayaka’s features flared at hearing that, her face twisting in anger as she snarled, “HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND?! YOU LIGHT-HEARTED IDIOT!!!”

As she screamed, she managed to tear herself free from Leon’s grasp, tumbling backward toward the bed and hitting her back on the bedpost. Her arms frantically grabbed onto the wooden post to steady herself. Just as she began to regain her balance, she heard the sound of the decorative sword being unsheathed.

Her eyes shot over to see Leon, holding the golden sword in both hands, staring at her with a fearsome determination in his eyes, the likes of which she’d never seen from him before.

All at once, Sayaka felt unimaginable terror take hold of her. Her complexion whitened as all color drained from her face. Her advantage was gone. And now, she had to pay the price for her actions.

“He’s…he’s going to kill me…!!”


 

“Dammit! Now what the hell do I do?!” Leon questioned himself as Sayaka flung back and barely caught herself on the bedpost.

Nothing he said made any difference! He just wanted to try and talk with her but as long as she had that knife, he didn’t think he’d be able to calm her down—

“That’s it!”

Without thinking, he grabbed the golden sheath of the blade and tore it off, letting the scabbard clatter to the floor. The sound cued Sayaka into his movements and she shot her gaze over to him.

The moment their eyes met, he saw an understandable terror building up on her eyes. It was obvious that she was now more scared of him than he was of her. After all, he had a longer and better weapon, even if it was dull and edgeless. Plus, he was a professional athlete who was physically stronger than her. Her fears were more than founded, he was unfortunately forced to admit. However, regardless of what she may be thinking, Leon knew that he had no intention of actually hurting her.

“I’m the only one who can help her now! I’ve got to get that knife away from her so we can just talk!”

Grasping the hilt of the decorative blade with both hands, he narrowed his gaze at her and prepared for her next attack.

As she gazed at his determined visage, Sayaka let out a terrified scream before jumping to her feet and pointing the knife as threateningly as she could manage with her now shaky hands. Her lips trembled and her body shook as she fought to stay standing, adrenaline probably being the only thing keeping her upright right now.

Leon desperately wished she would just drop the knife and surrender but her horrified visage made him realize how foolish that notion was. However, if she stayed away from him long enough for him to try and explain himself, then maybe they could—

“I won’t let you kill me!!!” Sayaka abruptly screamed and charge at him once more.

This time, however, Leon was fully prepared and knew what he had to do.

Unlike before, Sayaka was holding the knife just with her right hand. And if he timed his strike well enough, he’d be able to knock the blade far enough away from her grasp. Then, he could overpower her and subdue her physically, and hope that he could calm her down afterwards.

It was a crude plan but the only one he could come up with on such short notice. All he had to worry about was knocking the knife from her grasp. Which he didn’t see as a problem at all. As Leon lined up the angle for his swing, he felt a sure of confidence overtake him.

“I mean, if I can hit a side-winding fastball going 100 km an hour, then surely I can hit the knife from her—”.

Just as he swung the golden blade toward the knife, Sayaka saw his movement and decided to try and evade instead of attack. Unfortunately, Leon was already following through with his swing and it was too late. Then, to both party’s surprise, rather than the sound of metal colliding with metal, a sickening crack was heard as Leon saw the decorative sword make brutal contact with Sayaka’s wrist, the knife falling from her grasp and clacking onto the floor.

He barely had time to react before a pain-filled wail reached his ears.

“ARRRRRRRRRRRRAHHHHHH”

Leon completely froze. He saw Sayaka rear her head back and grasp her probably broken wrist. She breathed heavily and stared, horrified at her injury, wheezing and fighting to endure the pain.

Across from her, the baseball star felt himself lose his grip on the decorative sword, the golden weapon clattering to the floor loudly. He hadn’t meant to do that! He only wanted to disarm her, not break a wrist!

However, even if it wasn’t what he intended, she was unarmed now and with that injury, she would probably be easier to subdue. Although he wanted to avoid hurting her even more, he knew it was now or never. Holding up his hands to show he was unarmed, he slowly began walking toward her.

“S-Sayaka! I…I didn’t…I didn’t mean…” he struggled to say, trying to find a way to convince her of his good intentions. However, his hesitation only seemed to further frighten the injured Sayaka and she quickly backed away from him.

“STAY AWAY!!” she frantically shouted, her eyes frantically scanning the room.

Finally, her eyes seemed to lock onto something near her and Leon realized all too late that it was the knife she’d dropped. Sayaka saw that he had noticed her discovery and immediately dashed for the blade.

Not wanting a repeat of what had happened earlier, the baseball star also sped toward the knife. However, just before his fingers would have grasped the hilt, Sayaka’s foot smashed into his side, causing him to gasp for breath. This gave her just enough time to grab the knife with her uninjured hand and speed away from him.

At first, Leon thought she might be trying to get behind and stab him, so he whirled around and leapt to the side. Coincidentally, he landed next to the decorative sword and furiously grabbed it before spinning around to face the re-armed pop idol.

However, much to his surprise, he found Sayaka using her shoulder to push open the bathroom door.

“No! Sayaka, wait!”

However, she paid him no heed as the door flew open and she disappeared within, the kitchen knife clutched in her left hand.


 

The door slammed behind her, creating a barrier between her and her supposed killer. Luckily, even though it was a boy’s bathroom that didn’t have a lock, because the frame didn’t fit right, it jammed and appeared to be locked. A fact that Sayaka had counted on when she fled there.

Her back pressed against the cold tiled surface of the bathroom wall, her left arm clutching the knife while her aching right arm hung lifeless at her side. She tried to move her broken wrist but a surge of pain shot through her, so she decided to let it remain motionless. However, the dull ache that came from that arm continued to assault her regardless.

Her legs began to lose strength and Sayaka felt herself slowly sink to the floor. All the while, tears of sorrow and regret spilled from her eyes.

“This is it. This is the end for me. Even if Leon does go away, he’ll tell the others what I did. Makoto might believe me if I told him that it was Leon that attacked me, but if Leon shows them the note I wrote…”

She winced as another jolt of pain from her wrist wracked her body. At the same time, she could hear Leon shout at her just outside the door. She couldn’t tell what he was saying but he sounded furious, which he had every right to be. He continued banging on the door, obviously desperate to get in and finish what she had started.

“I can’t believe…I actually tried to kill him…me…And now…he’s going to kill me instead…I’m scared…I don’t want to die…”

Against her will, she began sobbing uncontrollably, tears rolling down her cheeks and soaking the collar of her uniform. All of the happy memories of her time with her band mates now came back, taunting her as she realized that everything she had fought to protect was going to die with her.

“I’ll never know the warmth of being on stage ever again…I’ll never find out if my friends are okay…I failed…I failed everyone…I’m going to die here…alone…and it’s my own fault!”

Chocking back her tears, Sayaka lifted the knife up and viewed her reflection in it one last time. Her disheveled, tear stained and reddened face only further tortured her and she couldn’t bear to look at it any longer. Angling the tip of the blade at her throat, she took deep breaths as she prepared to end her misery herself.

“I can’t take it anymore. I’d rather end it all myself than be murdered,” she tried to assure herself, speaking aloud in an attempt to steady her nerves. “It’ll be over soon…”

Holding the knife firmly against her throat, she began to press the tip into her slender neck.


 

“Sayaka! Open the door! Dammit, Sayaka!!!”

Leon rattled the handle of the door but found it wouldn’t budge. He shouldn’t have been surprised, this was a girl’s room and their bathrooms could lock. But that only made it all the more infuriating!

“Dammit!!!” he grunted as he slammed his shoulder into the door, trying to force it open. However, no matter how many times he rammed it, the lock seemed to hold firmly.

For a moment, Leon stopped to consider what he should do. Now that his life wasn’t in danger, he felt like he could think more clearly and decided to weigh his options.

He could try and talk to Sayaka through the door, though he doubted she would listen. Even worse was the fact that she had taken the knife with her. If she had run into the bathroom without it, he wouldn’t have been so worried, but leaving her with a weapon was too dangerous a threat for him to ignore.

He could try and get the others but what happened if Sayaka decided to come out and attack him while he did so? Then there was also the option of just returning to his room and waiting for the morning announcement and showing everyone the letter Sayaka had wrote. However, what if Sayaka went to someone like Makoto before morning? She would spin things in her favor and probably say that he wrote the note and was trying to frame her after failing to kill her!

“Arrgh, dammit! Why did things have to turn out like this?!” he complained as he pressed his head against the bathroom door. Just as he was about to consider giving up and heading back to his room, he heard a despairing voice beyond the door.

…can’t take…anymore…end it all myself…murdered…over soon…

An audible gasp escaped Leon as he heard Sayaka’s agonizing words. She wouldn’t…would she? Could she really be planning to do it?! No! That’s not what he wanted at all! He was trying to save her, not drive her into a corner so she could kill herself!

Snapping his head up, Leon once more resumed his furious assault on the door, pounding his fist into the wood.

“No…no! Don’t do it! Open the damn door, Sayaka!” he pleaded, desperately trying to stop her from outside. “You can’t! No! Stop!!”

More desperate than ever to break down the door, Leon looked to the wall where he had set down the decorative sword. Without any hesitation, he grabbed the golden blade once more and reared it back. With all his strength, he slammed the blunt metal into the door, leaving a huge gash in it.

However, despite the newly formed mark, the door remained rooted in place. Anger coursed through Leon as he lifted the blade again, slashing at the stubborn door once more. The attack earned another gaping indent in the wood but still the frame held the door in place. Taking a few steps back for momentum, Leon rushed toward the door, swinging the blade down with as much force as he could muster.

Unfortunately, even that valiant effort only put another gash in the wooden surface, the door itself still as unmoving as ever.

“God-Dammit!!” he cursed as he threw the now bent blade aside before continuing to pound on the door. “There has to be a way I can—”.

Before he finished speaking, his eyes caught a glimpse of the doorknob and he gasped as he knelt down before the knob. There were small screws in the plate that held the knob in place. So, even if the knob itself broke, the door would remain locked. But if he removed the screws, he should be able to shimmy the lock open!

All he needed now was—

“My toolkit!” he exclaimed before practically leaping to his feet. “Sayaka! Just hold on a little longer!”

And with that, he dashed around the corner and out into the hallway.


 

Just as the tip of her knife touched the flesh of her neck, Leon resumed his frantic shouting. Startled by the increased banging on the door, Sayaka pulled the blade away from her throat but not before the edge of the knife nicked the underside of her chin.

Gasping at the painful sensation, Sayaka winced and closed one eye, trying to regain her resolve. Outside, the assault on the door was growing more frantic and she knew that any moment, the door would give way and she’d be in the hands of her would-be killer. She needed to finish this…quickly.

“I won’t…let him…” she told herself, putting the blade back in place, ready to stab into her neck. “I…I won’t…let him…”

Her hand trembled as the blade got closer and closer to her flesh, and no matter how hard she tried, she could not steady her grasp. Then, when the blade was only inches away from her throat, she felt something inside her break. The hand holding the knife retracted and fell back to her side and her body was rocked with sobs and fresh tears.

“I…I can’t! I don’t want to die! Not like this…Not like this…”

It was at this time that all of noise outside the door ceased, making her head snap up in attention. For a moment, she thought he would resume but after what seemed like an eternity, it seemed that Leon had finally given up on breaking down the door.

“Is…is he…gone?” she pondered, a glimmer of hope shining through.

Despite her tears and the pain of her injuries, Sayaka decided to pull herself up to her feet. Using the wall as support, she was able to stand upright and push off the wall, standing on her own. Slowly and cautiously, she approached the door, listening for any signs that someone might be on the other side.

When she heard nothing, Sayaka allowed herself a brief moment to sigh and take a deep breath.

“I’m alive…” she said almost triumphantly, a fragile smile forming on her lips. “I’m still alive…I’m going to—”.

Just then, she heard a strange sound coming from the door. Leaning in only slightly, she heard what sounded like metal being turned or unhinged. At the same time, she saw that the handle of the door had begun to jiggle slightly. Her face blanched as the rumbling of the handle increased until it was shaking violently.

Shaking her head violently, Sayaka backed away from the door and said, “No…no…I don’t want to—”.

Without warning the door handle abruptly came loose and the door swung open. Standing there, with screwdriver in hand, was the one person Sayaka wished to never see again.

“No…I don’t want to die!!! I want to live!!!” she screamed as Leon stepped into the bathroom.

Tossing the working tool aside as he entered, Leon held up his hands, as if to surrender.

“Wait a second! I’m not going to do anything! I just want you to listen to what I have to say for a bit, okay?!” he said to her, coming closer and closer.

However, Sayaka knew it had to be a trick. He was here to kill her, just like she had tried to kill him! What other reason would he have for going so far as to break open her door just to get to her?!

Although completely terrified, Sayaka held up her knife and angled the tip at him again. Without waiting for him to speak, she rushed at him in a desperate attempt to defend herself. However, before she even got close to him, he sidestepped and grasped her knife wielding hand.

“NOOO! GET AWAY!” she frantically screamed trying to free herself of his grasp.

She managed to pull the blade back closer to her chest but Leon’s hand stubbornly held onto it the entire time. If she could use her other hand, she would have slapped at him but at the moment, she couldn’t even lift a finger on that hand. Continuing to struggle against his superior strength, Sayaka did all she could to break free, but to no avail.

“DON’T KILL ME! NOO!!!!” she shrieked, feeling him use his other hand to try and pry the blade from her grasp. In response, her fingers tightened around the handle and she refused to let him have it.

It was then that she heard him grunt and say, “Dammit! I’m not going to kill you! So will you just calm down and—”.

Suddenly, she felt him tear the knife from her grasp and when he did, a sharp pain ran down her body. She froze for a moment, unable to think or even feel. Then, slowly, her gaze wandered down to her abdomen and her eyes widened in horror.

Just below her breasts, a slender gash could be seen tracing down to just above her waist. Her white uniform top slowly began to darken as the blood began oozing out. It wasn’t until then that a seizure of pain, more intense than anything she’d ever felt before, encased her entire body and she felt her strength quickly fail her.

Stumbling backwards, she slapped into the back wall and slowly began to slide down. Her legs came out from under her and she plopped onto the floor, propped up against the now bloodstained wall.

In this moment of agony, all she could do was stare up at Leon as he gazed down upon her, absolute terror and fear in his eyes. And it was then that she understood…this was, indeed, her punishment.


 

The bloodstained knife in Leon’s hands clattered to the floor. His crystal blue eyes widened as he realized exactly what his hasty action had done. The gash on her abdomen didn’t appear to be deep but it was bleeding intensely, staining both the walls and floor as it oozed out of her stomach.

“No…no!”

Without thinking, he pressed his hands against the elongated wound, trying to stop the bleeding by keeping pressure on it. However, the wound extended too far for his hands to cover and he could see that Sayaka was getting weaker and weaker by the moment.

“Shit! Shit! What the hell do I do?! I need to stop the bleeding but I don’t—”.

Frantically looking around, the baseball star noticed a pure white towel hanging on the door to the shower. Thinking quickly, he leapt up and snagged it off the door. Immediately, he began ripping it into long, slender strips to use as bandages.

“Thank God for Kanon teaching me how to do this!” he briefly thought as he began wrapping the towel strips around the gaping wound.

He pulled each one tight and only when he was sure the bleeding was receding would he move on to the next bandage. The wound was too long for a single strip so he resolved to use all of them. When he finished tying the last of the smaller stripes, he quickly grabbed another towel and wrapped the entirety of it around the smaller make-shift bandages. Tying it tightly, he was now confident that with the larger towel encasing the smaller ones, the pressure would help stop the bleeding.

“I just have to stop the bleeding! If I can do that, surely Sayaka will—”.

Before he could finish the thought, an agonized grunt alerted him to a change in Sayaka’s condition. Shooting his gaze up, he saw that her eyes were only barely open and she was groaning as if trying to say something. Finishing tying off the last of the makeshift bandages, Leon immediately pulled himself up to her level and looked into her eyes.

There was no life left in her, all of it seemed to be drained as her life blood had spilled onto the floor. Leon had no idea if she was really conscious or not but he knew he had to do something to keep her awake! Gently placing his hands on her cold cheeks, he wiped away her tears with bloody fingers as he said to her:

“Come on, Sayaka! You can’t die here! You still have to teach me music…and…and…you have to…do a lot of other stuff too! So please…don’t die, Sayaka!!!”


 

Sayaka felt her consciousness flicker as she lay there on floor, her back pressed against that back wall. Every so often, she’d feel an intense jolt of pain just below her chest and even with her darkened vision she could make out that it was Leon kneeling down in front of her.

For a while, she wasn’t sure what he was doing but after he knelt down, she felt a sharp pain in her abdomen every few seconds and she could have sworn she saw his hands reaching around her.

Was he stabbing her even more? That’s what it felt like as she fought to stay awake, a battle she was quickly losing. Letting her head rest against the wall behind her, she was surprised that her thoughts were not focused on herself, but rather others.

She thought of her band mates and prayed that they were alright, still believing the video Monokuma showed her was a lie. She thought of her classmates still trapped in this hell, and earnestly wished that they would find a way to escape.

But most of all, she thought of Makoto and how devastated he would be when he discovered her in the morning…dead in his shower.

“M-M-Makoto…”

Guilt consumed her as she realized that she may have sealed his fate. Her plan to frame him would be carried out but not by her. And she knew that the others would blame him for her death…which he didn’t deserve.

Makoto...

All he did was trust her and she not only violated that trust, she took advantage of it. And that’s what hurt the most. The pain of her death was nothing compared to the deep hollow pressure she felt in her very soul at realizing how much she was going to hurt him.

“I…I have…to…”

She had to make things right. And there was very little time to do that. With the last of her strength, she pressed her left index finger into the pool of blood oozing out of her abdomen. The act brought untold pain to her but she endured it as best she could, only giving a single grunt as she retracted her hand.

Doing her best to concentrate, she pressed that bloody index finger against the wall behind her. And even though she knew she had one chance to do this, she somehow knew exactly how and where to write one final message.

11037 – L-E-O-N

Just as she finished the last stroke of her message, the last of her energy gave out and her hand fell to her side, completely lifeless.

“There…I…did…what…I could…”

Her vision began to blur and the world around her began to fade out. However just before she thought that she would fade from this world forever, Leon’s face suddenly appeared in front of her. Tears spilled from his crystal eyes as he placed his hand on her cheeks and began speaking to her.

…on, Sayaka!...You can’t…here!...still have to…me music…So please…don’t die, Sayaka!!!

He held her so tenderly and spoke to her in a mixture of desperation and concern. It was unlike anything Sayaka had ever seen from him before but somehow, she wasn’t surprised. And it was only in that moment that she realized that she had been wrong.

Leon had been telling the truth all along, he had been trying to help her. He had been trying to get the knife away from her out of concern, not to use against her. And he didn’t hate her for trying to kill him, or at least she hoped he didn’t.

She had been too blinded by fear and despair to see his good intentions and it had cost her everything.

All at once, she felt even more guilty for having dragged him into this…not only for attempting to kill him but for having written his name in her own blood. She had condemned him for something that was entirely her fault. She had no idea what would become of him or Makoto but she knew that, no matter what, they deserved to hear her one last time.

“I’m…so…sorry…”

As that unsaid apology rang through her mind, the darkness consumed her.


 

Leon felt his body go cold as Sayaka’s eyes slowly slid closed, her expression completely lifeless.

“…No…no…no, no, no, no, no, NOOOO!!”

His voice echoed in the small washroom and his mind frantically tried to deny what had happened.

“She…she can’t be dead! This can’t be real!” Leon pleaded, not entirely sure what to do. “She’s just unconscious! That’s all! I’ll check her pulse and…”

Grabbing hold of her wrist, he began feeling around for the vein that would resonate with her heartbeat. He’d also learned how to do this from his cousin, Kanon, but never imagined having to use it here. Unfortunately, to his utter horror, he felt nothing. Not even a hint of life seemed present in the lifeless Sayaka’s body.

His bloodstained hands slipped from her wrist and he raised them up to his eyes. The grimy pink tint on his fingers made him feel sick to his stomach and he fought off the urge to vomit. As he held in the contents of his dinner, he slowly began backing away from his classmate’s body, unable to even look at her any longer.

Getting out into the main room, Leon slumped against the wall next to the bathroom and stared up at the ceiling.

“How…did this happen?” he whispered to himself, trying to will away what had occurred. “This is all a bad dream…right, Sayaka?”

However, when he glanced back inside the bathroom, he felt himself blanch and threw his hand up to cover his mouth. He knew he had to hold it in, it would be bad if he lost it all over the carpeted floor. It was then that he noticed something he otherwise wouldn’t have.

He spotted a very distinctive strand of red hair on the floor.

“Shit! It must have happened during the fight!” he surmised.

Without even thinking, he looked over and saw the lint roller by the bed, picked it up and began cleaning up all of the hair in the room, both his and Sayaka’s. It was mainly just to make sure he got all of his but he didn’t want to take any chances. As he finished cleaning up the very last spot in the room, he tossed the lint roller aside and wiped the sweat from his brow.

Only then, after once again seeing the blood on his sleeve, did he realize what he had done.

“Oh shit! I’ve been covering up the crime scene! Why the hell did…I…”

Suddenly, he froze as his mind began to catch up with his intentions. He knew there was no turning back now. Sayaka was dead and even if it was an accident, it was by his hand. There was no way the others would believe him. Even if he told them exactly what happened, there was no way to guarantee they’d believe him.

Showing them the note would only prove that he was attacked first, not that he hadn’t intended to kill her. And besides that, even though he never wished for it, this was a coincidental opportunity for him. Killing in self-defense was understandable and even if he was found out later, he did have the excuse of it all being an accident.

Plus, if the bear was telling them all the truth, he qualified to get out of this hell hole! He could go and see what happened to his old team, find out what happened to his cousin, Kanon!

“This means…I get to graduate, right?” he said solemnly to himself.

He realized how hypocritical he was being compared to how he had been acting only a few minutes ago, but back then, he hadn’t accidentally murdered anyone before! He didn’t want to be punished for something that wasn’t his fault and he certainly didn’t want anyone to find out what he’d done.

It was bad enough it had happened, knowing the truth and having to live with the horrific fact that he’d killed Sayaka…it would stay with him for the rest of his days.

Even so, there was nothing left he could do now. Nothing would bring Sayaka back now. A part of him wanted to turn himself in but his own fears kept him from really considering that. After seeing how ruthless Monokuma was, he could only imagine what his punishment would be if he actually admitted to murder.

That thought alone sent chills down his spine and as he lifted his arm to wipe away more sweat, again being reminded of his crime by the blood on his sleeve. However, unlike before, he was suddenly overcome with the desire to rid himself of the garment.

Pulling off the bloodstained jacket, Leon prepared to head out of the room and find a way to dispose of his stained clothing. However, just before he was about to leave, he found his feet taking him to the entrance to the bathroom.

Glancing inside, he took in the sight of Sayaka’s body one last time. Despite himself, he felt hot tears well up in his eyes and he abruptly bowed in her direction.

“…I’m sorry…I know there isn’t any forgiveness for what I’ve done but…just know that I never wanted this to happen…”

Lifting his head, he forced himself to look directly at her before finishing.

“Goodbye…Sayaka.”


 

Turning around sharply, Leon quickly began walking away. He didn’t stop as he reached the door, almost knocking it open as he ventured out into the hall and off toward the laundry room. What he never would have know was, only a few moments after he left, a noise came from the bathroom.

On the floor of the shower, Sayaka abruptly stirred, if only slightly, and a light groan escaped her throat. For an instant, her eyes fluttered and strained, as if trying to open again. But a moment later, her stirring ceased and she once again became motionless.

No one, not even the mastermind behind the camera, saw her occasional stirring for the rest of the evening.


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

“…morning everyone...now 7AM…nighttime is officially…greet…beautiful day!”

Mukuro’s eyes fluttered open as the morning announcement invaded her ears, ruining her rest. Even so, she continued to rest her eyes for a few moments after the announcement, not ready to face the day just yet. She laid her head down on her desk, her arms folded into a makeshift pillow, still exhausted from her work the night before.

However, reason soon outweighed desire and she groaned as she knew it was time to awaken.

Pushing herself up, the soldier wiped away the sleep from her eyes and lightly slapped her face. As she sat upright in front of her desk she felt a small bit of something fall off her arms. Lifting up her arms for inspection, she found that she had fallen asleep on some of the unused screws and they had embedded into her skin a bit.

Brushing off a few more screws that remained stuck to her underarms, her gaze slowly shifted down to the center of her desk. There, polished, sharpened and pristine, was the combat knife she’d spent most of the night restoring.

A twisted combination of pride and disgust welled up inside Mukuro as she observed it.

Carefully, she reached out and picked it up, her reflection shimmering in the flat of the blade as she gazed at the deadly weapon. And, despite the guilt that she fought to keep away, she couldn’t deny the euphoria rising within her as she held that sleek and deadly weapon in her grasp. However, she immediately shook her head and forced herself to set the blade back down.

“…I shouldn’t be enjoying this,” Mukuro said to herself as she pushed herself away from her desk and stood up. “This isn’t like the battlefield. There’s no sport in hunting civilians...”

Still, the thrill of the hunt was stronger than she had realized, to make her forget her past atrocities and revel in that maddening bliss, even if it only lasted a moment.

“Junko must get that same feeling from Despair…I really am no better than her, am I?”

Her own words mockingly echoed in her mind as she approached her wardrobe.

Opening it up, she quickly grabbed a knife holster before unbuttoning her blouse. Setting the expensive garment aside for a moment, Mukuro slung the holster around her shoulder and settled it just below her breast-line. Replacing the designer blouse and adjusting it to hide the holster, she returned to her desk to retrieve the knife.

Just as she was about to reach out for the knife, she curiously lifted her eyes to check the time. To her shock, it was already ten past 7AM.

“Shit!”

She swore as she realized just how late she was, not realizing it had taken so much time to do such a simple task. Sleep depravity was obviously to blame but that didn’t resolve her situation.

Quickly grabbing her combat knife from the desk, she effortlessly slid it into the holster beneath her blouse, completely obscuring it from view. And because the holster was positioned low, it didn’t protrude outward or give any sign that she was armed. The perfect hidden weapon.

Not having time to congratulate herself for doing such fine work, Mukuro desperately sped toward the door. As her hand grasped the handle and begun to turn it, one hand shot up to her head. Sky blue eyes widened as she felt only her natural black hair atop her head. Gritting her teeth in frustration, she spun around and looked over to the far corner of her room.

Lying in a heap, frazzled and messy, was the pink wig that completed her outfit.

Knowing that this wig was now completely useless, the soldier sped toward her dresser that sat next to her wardrobe. Pulling open one of the larger drawers, an arrangement of several pink wigs came into view. All of them were already styled with a cute red bow and kitty cat clip.

“If Junko is anything, she is prepared!” Mukuro audibly thanked as she pulled out one of the spare wigs.

Speeding over to the mirror on her desk, she placed the pink patch of hair upon her head and adjusted it, clipping it to her own hair as quickly as humanly possible. Once she was certain the wig was secure and perfectly placed, Mukuro tore from desk and ran out her door, heading for the cafeteria.


 

Standing outside the cafeteria, staring blankly ahead, Leon felt as if his whole body was rooted in place. He knew he was late but that didn’t inspire him to take a single step. Guilt completely overtook him as he balled his fists and lowered his head.

“How the hell am I supposed to face all of them…?” he whispered to himself.

He hadn’t slept at all the previous night. After disposing of his bloody shirt via improvised use of the incinerator, he had returned to his room and laid down on his bed. There, he stared upwards at the ceiling for hours, unable to close his eyes no matter how exhausted he was.

For each time his eyes shut, the horrific vision of Sayaka’s terrified face flashed before his eyes, followed by the image of the bloody mess he had left her in. Her words echoed in his mind, clawing at his sanity.

“No! I don’t want to die!!!”

“Please, don’t kill me!!!”

“I want to live!!!”

Leon gritted his teeth as he tried, and failed, to forget those words and the terrified voice of the Pop Idol. They would haunt his nightmares for the rest of his life and even if he survived this horrific situation, he knew he would never be the same again. The blood on his hands may have washed away but to him, it was still there and would forever remain there.

He would never be allowed to forget his crime, he couldn’t and wouldn’t let himself do that. At the very least, he could do that for Sayaka. But that didn’t mean he would admit to his crime either.

He had already decided on what he needed to do now. He would act as if he had no idea what had happened and when it was time for the killer to be released from this prison, only then would he admit to his shameful act.

In truth, he was incredibly fearful of what would happen when that time came. A large part of him wanted to just own up to it and just tell his classmates right now. But something told him that wasn’t an option. Even if he wasn’t punished by Monokuma for coming clean, he knew that his classmates would undoubtedly do the job for the demented bear.

It seemed that the only option he had was to stay quiet and pray that no one found out he was involved in Sayaka’s murder.

But that brought up new questions. Just how would Monokuma go about letting the killer leave? For that matter when he said that the killer would be forced out of the school…did he even mean that the killer would be allowed to leave alive?!

As that horrifying though occurred to him, a slap on his shoulder startled him and he abruptly shouted for a moment before whirling around. To his surprise, he found Hiro smiling awkwardly and rubbing his head.

“Whoa! Sorry about that, man. Didn’t mean to startle you,” the clairvoyant explained, obviously startled himself. “You okay? You were just standing there, staring down at the floor like a zombie.”

Only now realizing how suspicious his actions could seem to others, Leon plastered a grin on his face and chuckled.

“Y-Yeah! I was up waaaay too late last night. Guess I’m still out of it this morning.”

Leon mentally cursed as that excuse escaped him. No one was dumb enough to think that just because he was tired that he’d be zoned out in front of the cafeteria, sweating profusely and obviously nervous about something—

“Oh, I see. One of those nights, huh? I have those sometimes too.”

It took all the strength Leon had not to give a huge sigh of relief as his idiot classmate accepted his lie. Instead, Hiro decided to use it as an excuse of his own to keep talking.

“I remember the time that I was out late with some, uh, customers, and we decided to—”

Suddenly, from behind them, an annoyed scoff startled both of them.

“Do you mind? You’re blocking the doorway.”

The boys turned their head to see none other than Junko Enoshima standing behind them, her arms folded over her chest and tapping her foot impatiently.

Leon was about to apologize, on instinct, when he suddenly noticed something was off about her today. Her hair was slightly frazzled and kinda seemed…folded in places. Not to mention that she was breathing heavily and seemed to be recovering her composure. And though he couldn’t quite place it, something was just…different about her face. He just couldn’t tell what.

Before he could inspect her further, Hiro nervously replied, “Oh, sorry about that! We were just saying how nice it is today—”.

“Don’t give me that crap. We’re gonna be late if you don’t get moving!” Junko abruptly cut him off, taking a determined step forward. “And I’m hungry so either get in or get out of the way.”

Hiro tensed up at her stern disposition and immediately turned to head into the cafeteria without another word.

Leon, however, was kind of shocked by her sudden change in attitude. She had always been frank and kind of bitchy but he’d never seen her so stern or abrasive before.

“I guess she’s just not a morning person,” he surmised as he, too, turned and headed into the cafeteria.

Junko followed directly behind them and when they finally entered the dining hall, it was already quarter past the meeting time. It seemed as though they were the last to arrive. Even Hifumi, who had been the last to arrive for the past few days, was there before them.

And the instant the three of them wandered into the dining hall, they fell under the scrutinous gaze and boisterous voice of Taka.

“Junko! Leon! Hiro! All of you are over fifteen minutes late! What do you have to say for yourselves?!” the Ultimate Moral Compass shouted, pointing furiously at them.

Without any hesitation, Junko abruptly smiled and said, “Sorry about that. My make-up would not agree with me this morning!”

Again, Leon was kind of startled by her sudden shift in persona. It was almost a complete 180 from her previous disposition a moment ago. But he ignored it as everyone seemed to accept her words.

Beside her, Hiro laughed awkwardly and answered, “I wasn’t late! I just got lost on the way here! I blame the Bermuda Triangle!”

This left only Leon, whom would have rather stayed silent and just gone to his seat. But now, as everyone was staring at him, expecting an answer, he had no choice but to respond.

“Sorry I’m late guys. I slept right through my alarm.”

Leon blatantly lied to his classmates as he slowly drifted into the cafeteria, another forced grin hiding his shame and terror. And even though Taka scolded them for a bit longer, no one questioned any of them on their tardiness. It seemed that getting caught up with Hiro and Junko had been a blessing in disguise.

Absolutely no one seemed the wiser. None of them could tell that Leon had changed overnight. Hell, he hardly believed it himself…but he knew it was true.

He was a killer now…a murder. But if he played the game accordingly, he just might get out of here alive.

“It’s all I can do now. It’s not like I wanted this to happen…”

This was all he could focus on as the rest of the students began chatting around him.


 

Taking her usual seat by the end of the table, Mukuro let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. Apart from almost being the last one to arrive, she managed to keep her guise up without raising any suspicion. It had been fortunate that those two idiots happen to be hanging around outside the dining hall. It masked her actions, and tardiness, perfectly.

After all, if she was going to have a chance at killing…her target, she would need to be careful and not do anything that could seem even the slightest bit suspicious. Drawing attention to herself in any way could put the more intelligent students on alert, which would make her task that much more—

“Junko, forgive my rudeness but…you appear quite different than on the cover of your magazines. It was not what I was expecting.”

The instant Sakura Ogami’s words reached her ears, a flutter of panic rose up in the disguised Mukuro. Only now did she realize that, in her haste, she had forgotten to reapply foundation to her face, leaving most of her freckles clear for everyone to see! And if that was the case, did that also mean that her hand was—!

As cautiously as she could manage, Mukuro lifted her hand up to be sure that the symbol of her mercenary career was still hidden from view. For if it wasn’t, her cover would be completely blown!

Fortunately enough, it seemed that the Fenrir tattoo on her hand was still completely covered with foundation. A relieved sigh escaped her as she used that previous hand movement to disguise her mistake.

She let out a cheeky laugh before placing her right hand on her cheek to show emphasis while giving a cutesy expression.

“That’s because I get all fixed up for the magazine articles!” she proudly pronounced, smiling lavishly as she continued. “They use photo editing and all that junk to spice things up a little!”

“Is that so?!” Sakura replied in shock, her surprise spreading to many of the surrounding students who happened to hear them.

Confident that her lie was a success, the disguised Mukuro waved her hand dismissively and continued, “Oh come on, guys! Don’t look so surprised! It’s pretty common in the fashion world to do that kind of stuff.”

Everyone whom was paying attention gave a slight gasp of surprise, some more quietly than others. No one had expected to hear such a thing from the famous model and it clearly showed.

Even Makoto looked to her with shock, obviously not expecting an Ultimate Fashionista to have such a dirty secret. However, none of them seemed to question it at all. Not even Kyoko whom she had been certain would at least voice her suspicion. But it seemed that the memory wiped detective didn’t plan to say anything, which in a way, was more frightening than if she had spoken up.

Not only that, Mukuro’s eyes slowly drifted up to the camera watching them, but only for a moment before looking away. Even if it hadn’t been intentional, she had just completely disrespected her younger sister with that lie.

“Junko won’t be happy about this…”

Being the Ultimate Fashionista, as well as Ultimate Despair, Junko prided herself on her looks, and even though she was never vain about them, she knew exactly how beautiful and stunning she was. Even without make-up, the despair loving girl had a glamorous glow to her that Mukuro had, albeit unknowingly, always been jealous of.

Luckily, before she could ponder the ramifications of her words any longer, Taka stood up and decided it was time to start the morning breakfast meeting.

“Alright, is everyone here?” he called out, making everyone look around to confirm it.

“…No, actually. Byakuya and Sayaka haven’t arrived yet,” Hina chirped, not spotting either of the mentioned students.

“I haven’t what now?” the cold and stern voice of Byakuya called out, turning everyone’s head toward the door.

He strode in as usual, his confident and smug attitude already showing through. Without offering anything else, he took a seat far removed from the others and waited patiently for the meeting to begin. However, he barely got the chance to rest before he was bombarded with an important question.

“Yo, you didn’t see Sayaka on the way here, did ya?” Mondo bluntly asked, only half concerned.

A mocking scoff came from Byakuya as he settled into his seat but surprisingly, he answered, “No. I didn’t see anyone on my way here. Why? Has something happened?”

Mukuro didn’t appreciate his tone, almost as if he wanted something to have happened. And although she wasn’t entirely surprised by his abrasive and somewhat cruel attitude, it still unsettled her that the Affluent Progeny derived pleasure from such horrifying circumstances.

Nevertheless, warning bells didn’t really go off in her mind until Hina once again chimed in.

“Sayaka isn’t here yet,” the swimmer said curiously. “I wonder if she’s sick?”

“It is most unlike her to be absent,” Sakura agreed, her demeanor changing in response to the tense air that began to settle in around them. “And she isn’t the type to be late for such things.”

A deep, heavy silence overtook the area and for a few moments, no one dared to either speak or move. Not even the arrogant Byakuya or the indifferent Celeste were immune to moment of dread that spread over all of the students.

The only one that seemed able to think properly…was the imposter who hid among them.

Perhaps predicting the coming disaster, from beneath her guise, Mukuro suddenly turned her attention over to Makoto. Her sky blue irises widened as she saw that his face was twisted in abject horror, his eyes dilating and his body trembling. He looked as if he was trying to convince himself that Sayaka’s absence meant nothing but he was losing that battle with himself.

“I…I’m going to go check on her!!” Makoto practically shouted as he shot up from his seat and dashed out of the cafeteria, obviously giving in to his fearful curiosity.

It was in that moment that Mukuro realized that the game had officially begun. And what was worse, she had absolutely nothing to do with it. And, unfortunately for all of them, her fears were confirmed as the horrified shriek of Makoto echoed all the way to the dining hall.


 

“EHYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”

The instant that ear shattering scream rang out, Kyoko knew that someone had given into temptation. And for reasons unknown to even herself, felt something inside harden as she mentally prepared herself for whatever was to come.

Unsurprisingly, Taka was the first one to react, tearing away from the head of the long table everyone was seated at. As he reached the door, he spun around to face his fellow classmates with a stern but concerned visage.

“Everyone! Stay here where it’s safe! I’ll check it out and report back!” he instructed before abruptly turning and dashing down the hallway.

For a moment, it seemed as if the remaining students might actually listen to him. However, that notion was shattered as Byakuya leapt up from his seat and sped out the door, not sparing a word for anyone.

“W-Wait! S-Shouldn’t we do what Taka—?!” Chihiro tried to insist before all hell broke loose.

Without waiting for anyone’s approval, Kyoko also rushed toward the door, ignoring all protests and the sounds of footsteps that followed after her. But she didn’t make it even halfway down the hall before a strange sound played over the intercom.

*Ding–Dong–Ding–Dong*

Kyoko came to a sharp halt as that chime played throughout the school. Her eyes shot up to the monitor that was hanging in the top corner of the hallway, already knowing what would happen next. Her suspicions were confirmed when the screen clicked on, buzzing to life as the image of Monokuma appeared.

Holding a glass of wine, as usual, the bear’s half-grin seemed to widen menacingly as it spoke.

“A body has been discovered!”

Kyoko gritted her teeth and seethed silently as her worst fears began to materialize right in front of her. Her gloved hands balled into fists and if she had been near a wall, she might have been tempted to slam her knuckles into it. Fortunately, she was too far away from the nearest wall and so she merely redirected her vision back toward the screen as the bear’s voice continued.

“Every living student is to report to the gymnasium immediately! Tardiness will be met with extreme prejudice!”

And with that, the monitors flickered to black, leaving everyone who heard it, aside from Kyoko, in a state of shock. Almost on instinct, Kyoko’s mind began processing the situation.

A dead body…that meant that someone really had fallen to the temptation. And the victim was more than obvious. The only thing that remained for them to discover was who had been the one to give in to their twisted desire and snuffed out such a young life. Even more terrifying was that, if Monokuma kept his word and stayed out of their way, the killer had to be…one of the students that were currently rushing toward her in a mad frenzy.

She heard their footsteps, some louder and more desperate than others, speeding toward her and the scene of the crime. And again, as if on instinct, she spun around placed herself between them and the open door leading to what she assumed was a horrific scene.

“Hey, dammit! What the hell are you doing?!” Mondo shouted at her, closing the gap between them and growling in her face. “Get out of the way!”

“No.”

Kyoko’s firm voice and stern gaze didn’t falter, even in the face of Mondo’s threatening posture. Obviously surprised that his demand wasn’t heeded, confusion spread over the biker’s face for a moment as he took in her fierce visage as she blocked his path. But just as quickly as his confusion came, it was gone, and he regained his composure and glared down, towering over her.

“Just what the hell are you trying to pull?” he replied menacingly, gritting his teeth and beginning to crack his knuckles.

It was a habit she’d noticed Mondo did only when he wanted to punch something but knew he shouldn’t. And fortunately for her, she also knew why he was restraining himself.

From what she knew of the bike gang leader, Mondo would never…ever stoop to hitting a woman; he’d sooner kill himself than send a punch her way. Knowing that, and seeing that he was the one leading the charge of the other students, she figured that opposing him would be the best way to get them all to stop and think.

Behind the furious biker, the rest of the students looked on with different expressions.

Chihiro and Hina stood close to Sakura, who stood out in front as a way to somehow shield them from this disaster. Junko blanched while standing beside a horrified Hiro, whom seemed to continually deny that any of this was true. Hifumi howled in terror, his hands clasped to his face as he shrieked. Behind them, Toko grasped her head in fearful frustration and Celeste watched the scene with what could be considered intrigue, except that she couldn’t stop beads of nervous sweat rolling down her forehead.

And far behind all of them, Leon stood frozen in place, as if something within him had broken and he could do nothing but watch the madness unfold. A common reaction, Kyoko noted, but it felt odd he was distancing himself from everyone. He seemed the type to rely on others when in times of crisis but she wasn’t sure why she came to that conclusion.

In either case, Kyoko knew that if she didn’t take charge now, the situation would worsen.

“For now, we need to do as our captor says and report to the gym,” she said sternly, her gaze hardening as she could see them all wanting to protest. And of all of them, the only one able to shake off her glare and speak, was Mondo.

“Like hell we’re gonna do that! I’m not going anywhere until I see what happened with my own eyes!”

Kyoko knit her brows at his statement. In the state he, and probably the rest of them, were in, they would only disrupt the scene and perhaps unintentionally destroy vital evidence that could lead to the killer. That was something she couldn’t allow…for reasons that escaped even herself.

“We all heard the announcement. We have to gather in the gym as soon as possible or—” she tried to reason but found herself cut off.

“Who the hell cares about that right now?!” Junko abruptly shouted, pushing through the crowd to stand next to Mondo. “We don’t know if what that freaky bear said was even true! We need to see if Sayaka is really—!”

“D-Don’t s-say it!”

Everyone was shocked to hear Chihiro abruptly shriek, her hands covering her ears as she began trembling. And she wasn’t the only one. Most of them were struggling to keep it together, desperate that the announcement hadn’t been real or that they didn’t hear it properly. But none of them could deny the truth, no matter how painful it was.

It was a sobering moment for everyone. To realize that one of their friends…truly was dead.

Taking advantage of the sudden silence, Kyoko cleared her throat to get everyone’s attention. “Listen everyone. Like it or not, we’re all captives in this place. And if we don’t do as our captor says…well, we’ve already seen the kind of punishment that awaits us.”

As one, everyone turned to gaze at Mondo, remembering their first day and what happened when he defied the rules. Mondo himself could still slightly recall the smell of gunpowder and smoke as the explosion had almost singed his clothing. No one wanted to test their luck after that, not even in this desperate situation.

Just as Kyoko feared that she may have to lead them to the gym herself, an unlikely ally spoke up.

“I’m afraid that I have to agree with Kyoko. We should head for the gym with all haste.”

Everyone turned to see Celeste, her posture perfect as she folded her hands under her chin, smiling at all of them. When no one openly rejected her, she decided to continue.

“This is all part of adapting to our environment. And as she said, we know the consequences of defying our captor.”

She tilted her head slightly, letting her smile widen. The way she smiled like that was kind of unsettling but the logic behind her words was undeniable. Slowly, everyone began to accept their classmate’s notions, despite wanting to protest. Seeing her classmates understand her reasoning, Celeste let out a soft chuckle.

“Are there no objections?” She paused for a moment but no one dared to speak. After a few more seconds of silence, she smiled at them again, triumphantly. “Alright then, shall we get going?” she said almost cheerfully before turning on a heel but stopping before she took a step. “Oh, but we will need someone to go and fetch Byakuya and Kiyotaka. Just in case they don’t heed the—”.

“I’ll do it,” Kyoko unsurprisingly volunteered, already turning to head toward the open door to the crime scene. “I promise we won’t be long. Goodbye.”

She didn’t give any of them time to protest before she walked away from them, confident that Celeste would lead them away. And even though she was more than wary of the Ultimate Gambler’s silver tongue, for now it was working in her favor and she welcomed the assistance, at least for now.

“I’m going to need to keep a closer eye on that one,” Kyoko mentally noted as she crossed the threshold into the room.


 

Sakura walked out in front of the students heading for the gym, acting as a shield of sorts. She wanted to make sure that everyone would be safe, and having her leading them would put some of their minds at ease. However, there was another purpose that she couldn’t reveal to the others.

A look of genuine relief marred her features instead of stern determination.

“Because someone else committed a murder, I have been spared that burden. At least for now…”

The sick, twisted alleviation from that horrible duty also made her want to smash her fist into the wall. She didn’t want to be grateful that someone else had killed one of her classmates, and she most certainly didn’t want to be relieved that the one who died hadn’t been Hina. Even so, she couldn’t deny that those very things were what she was feeling. And it filled her with despair as she realized that no matter what, even if she didn’t go through with killing another student or spying on them for the mastermind; this horrific guilt would never leave her mind.

“No…it’s not that the guilt can’t be forgotten. It’s that I don’t want it to be forgotten.”

This was her punishment for turning on her classmates to save her dojo. Even if she hadn’t actually done anything for the mastermind yet, she knew that after whatever ordeal they would be forced to endure was complete, Monokuma would come calling. His relentless attempts to break her will were maddening and—

“Sakura?” the sudden voice of Hina snapped the fighter out of her thoughts and she turned to see her friend walking directly beside her. “Are you okay? You look kinda pale. Well, we all do but…”

As Hina hung her head, trying to force away her own feelings of despair, Sakura felt herself become even more angered. Her internal struggle was leading to her only true friend becoming more and more worried, about herself and the situation. This could not be allowed.

Slowly, Sakura gently placed her hand atop Hina’s head and said, “I’m fine. I was just preparing myself for whatever comes our way. After all, we will need to be strong in order to survive this.”

As Hina lifted her gaze up, a light smile appeared on her lips.

“Yeah…you’re right!” she audibly agreed, as if drawing strength from her friend’s words. “We just need to stay positive and work together! We can’t let that stupid bear win! Am I right, Sakura?”

Hearing her friend’s words of encouragement should have brought a renewed hope to muscle-bound fighter. However, it only proved to further throw her into despair.

Seeing Hina actively doing her best not to let the hopelessness of the situation bring her down, Sakura felt even more ashamed that she had, reluctantly, given in already. Becoming the Mastermind’s pawn had taken away all semblance of dignity and left her nothing more than a shell of her formerly proud self.

However, as she stared at Hina’s determined features, a single thought invaded her mind.

“Even if I am branded a traitor or find myself in harm’s ways because of my choices. My mission will always be to protect my family and friends…no matter the cost.”

Despite how painful it was, Sakura managed to give a warm smile to her friend as she replied, “Indeed. Let’s do all that we can, together.”

“Right!” Hina cheerfully concurred, looking forward and smiling brightly.

Seeing that beautiful and hopeful smile, Sakura came to a decision that she knew would go against everything she believed. However, if it meant that her friends would survive and live on…then she would be more than willing to do it.

“I will never allow Hina…or any of my friends to suffer for my mistakes.”


 

The instant Kyoko entered the room; a strange and unsettling feeling of calm overtook her. As if her emotions were shutting themselves off without her permission.

“An automatic reaction,” she surmised, unable to fight the feeling. “Why am I having such a reaction to this? What in my past caused me to act this way when in this kind of situation?”

She wanted to ponder the notion further but she was here for a purpose and she knew that Monokuma wouldn’t permit them taking too long. So, pushing away the unsettling calm that surrounded her, she ventured further into the scene.

Her lavender eyes scanned the entirety of the room, aside from the bathroom that was just around the corner. The slashes on floor and walls, the ruffled bed sheets hanging off the bed frame and the empty sword stand overturned…somehow all registered to her in an instant. Again forcing away the lingering questions of what had happened and why, she quickly proceeded around the corner and stopped at what she saw.

Her classmate Makoto was lying on his back, eyes rolled back and mouth hanging open. Undoubtedly he was unconscious and so, Kyoko chose to leave him be for the moment and turned her attention toward the bathroom. The door was swung open and inside, she could see her other two classmates staring down at something.

Her lavender eyes slowly lowered until she saw the visage of Sayaka, blood staining the walls and her clothes, lying completely lifeless against the back bathroom wall.

Kneeling down in front of her, careful not to get any blood on himself, Byakuya pressed his fingers against her neck, searching for a pulse. He must have given up on finding it there, or perhaps he just wanted to be certain, but he slowly picked up her limp left hand and pressed his fingers to her wrist instead.

Standing beside him, pale and shocked, was Taka. The Moral Compass’ complexion worsened with each passing moment and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from his classmate’s corpse. And for some reason, Kyoko knew that the expression warping his face was one of guilt, but not the kind one has when they are truly at fault.

Taka was blaming himself, a feature uncommon in those who see their own crime. It was for this reason that, despite her mind telling her not to ignore the possibility, she knew without a doubt that he wasn’t the murderer. After all, the Moral Compass had never been able to keep hold of his emotions and honesty was ingrained in him. He would have reacted differently if he was the culprit.

Observing the scene, Kyoko knew they had little time before Monokuma came to collect them. And she didn’t want to find out what the bear meant about tardiness being met with ‘extreme prejudice’. Because of that, she decided it was time to make herself known.

“Well?”

As she expected, Taka audibly gasped at her arrival and spun around in surprise.

“K-Kyoko!” he sputtered, unsure of what else to say. She wasn’t surprised by this, considering his already frazzled nerves and paling complexion.

On the other hand, Byakuya didn’t even flinch as she made herself known. Or if he was surprised, he never showcased it, rising to his feet and staring down at Sayaka’s lifeless body. Without even turning around, he cleared his throat before replying.

“…She’s dead.”

There was no arrogance in his voice, or underlining hostility of any kind. It was simple, matter of fact and direct. There wasn’t even a hint of thrill that she would have expected to hear from the Affluent Progeny. In fact, he seemed to be…at a loss? For what, she couldn’t even fathom.

For a few more moments, all three of them stood there in silence, even Byakuya. Kyoko wasn’t sure if he was being respectful or if he was distancing himself from the situation.

Likewise, in the back of her mind, even the realistic and rational Kyoko had held a sliver of hope that the Pop Sensation was still alive, foolish though the notion was. But now that hope had been replaced…with a deep and deforming despair.

Honestly, looking down at the bloody corpse of her former classmate, Kyoko felt a bit sick to her stomach. However, it was not because of the scene. It was because she wasn’t feeling anything at all at the moment. Not even the stench of blood or the gruesome sight of the crime scene made her register anything. She had truly become a hardened shell, at least for the moment.

“…Why?…Why am I…so calm right now?” she couldn’t help but ponder, curiosity the only feeling breaking through her iron-clad defenses.

And although she desperately wanted to explore this feeling more and search the room to discover what had truly happened, she couldn’t forget that she was here for a very specific purpose.

Folding her arms over her chest and frowning, she stared at the two men before saying, “You heard the announcement, didn’t you? We need to gather in the—”.

“What’s the point in that?! Sayaka’s dead!!”

Kyoko was shocked that it was Taka who disrupted her, his head hung and his eyes squeezed shut. Guilt and frustration warped his features as he gripped his own clothes to keep from lashing out.

“She…she’s gone…forever! And I couldn’t stop it! No matter how hard I tried!” he abruptly continued, shooting his gaze toward her dead body, moisture building in his eyes.

“I did everything I could! I encouraged everyone to work together! I came up with plans to help keep everyone safe! I even offered my personal advice to anyone that needed me! So why…why did this happen?!”

Falling to his knees, he began to openly weep. His tears splattered to the floor, mixing in with patches of blood that stained the room. Whipping his head up, through blurred vision, he bowed to his deceased classmate.

“I’m…I’m so…so sorry…Sayaka! I…failed you!!”

Watching him take all of the blame unto himself and fall even deeper into despair, Kyoko fully recognized the kind of pressure the Moral Compass had placed upon himself.

It was obvious from the beginning that he was trying to be an example for all of them and lead them down the right path. More than that, he must have truly believed that, even if someone desired to commit murder, as long as he kept strict watch and prepared for it, he could prevent it. He had tried to defend them the only way he knew how, with strict discipline and well-meaning rules.

However, he failed to factor in the human element; that none of them were predictable and any of them could find ways around his precautions. And it seemed that the realization that he was utterly powerless in this situation was going to consume him…but only if she didn’t intervene.

Gently, she placed a gloved hand on his shoulder, startling him enough to make him turn back to look at her with blood-shot eyes. He was close to breaking but now, more than ever, Kyoko knew they needed him.

“I know it’s hard but we need to focus on what we can do now,” Kyoko spoke clearly but softly, trying to comfort him as best she could. “We all failed to save her, not just you. If we all had been more vigilant, this may have been avoided.”

She shot an accusatory glare at Byakuya for a moment but if he noticed, he didn’t acknowledge it.

Turning her attention back to Taka, she continued, “For now, we have to keep focused. We need to find out what really happened here and make sure we discover who is responsible.”

Hearing the logic in her voice, the tears stopped flowing from Taka’s eyes and he seemed to be processing her words. It was slow at first but his composure and fervor were quickly returning. A little more and Kyoko knew he would be fine.

“We need you, Taka. Now more than ever before, we need the Ultimate Moral Compass to be our guide. We need to be united and take care of each other…not just for ourselves, but to prevent anything like this from happening again.”

Her lavender eyes stared into his hazy reds, her strength and determination filling and revitalizing him. He blinked once and all of a sudden, his fear and despair seemed to vanish from his entire being.

“R-Right. You’re absolutely right!”

Furiously wiping away the remainder of his tears, Taka leapt to his feet, brushed himself off and adjusted his uniform. As soon as it was straightened and proper, he gave a respectful bow to Kyoko.

“Thank you! You have opened my eyes to my own foolishness! I swear…I will not falter ever again!”

Seeing his revitalization, Kyoko felt a mixture of pride and shame. She had observed him long enough to know exactly what he needed to hear and she had said it without any hesitation. And while it hadn’t been a lie, per se, she felt an ounce of guilt knowing that she had effectively manipulated him into recovery.

However, it was true that they needed him there, as they needed to be united to be able to solve the mystery of who put them in this horrific situation and why. She wouldn’t admit that he had a bad habit of upsetting everyone with his constant nagging and rules, but that was because she honestly felt that someone as straightforward as him was needed to keep order.

“I can’t make myself a target. And having Taka be the center of everyone’s frustration would certainly help with that,” she told herself, steeling her resolve and not letting her conflicting emotions overrule her judgment.

Despite that, she also recognized that it was because of her suppressed emotions that she considered such a risky and deadly plan. Her logic was also sound, which added to her determination and conviction to see the plan through. At the same time, she knew the danger was high, for herself and anyone else she involved.

“However, if I’m careful and utilize everyone resourcefully, then I can prevent any more needless killings…”

Just then, as quickly has he bowed, Taka rose and gave his classmate a stern but appreciative look. In response, Kyoko nodded firmly before saying, “We need to head to the gym, where everyone is waiting for us. But first…”

She turned her attention around behind her where the unconscious Makoto still lay. Following her gaze, Taka’s eyes widened as he obviously just remembered that the boy was still there.

“Very well!” the Moral Compass shouted proudly. “As penance for my distasteful display, I shall be the one to carry Makoto! You can count on me!”

Without another word, he marched over to the unconscious boy and hoisted him up onto his shoulders, showing that Taka was not only intelligent but rather strong as well. He didn’t even complain as he carefully balanced Makoto on his back and turned to face his fellow students.

“Like Kyoko said, we need to get moving!” he proclaimed before turning toward the door leading to the hallway. “To the gym! So we can find the culprit behind this madness!”

Adjusting his grip to be sure Makoto didn’t slip off, Taka quickly headed for the door, leaving Kyoko and Byakuya in the bathroom. Giving a brief sigh of relief, Kyoko moved to follow. However, she didn’t get two steps away before an authoritative voice stopped her.

“I must say, I’m impressed. I never expected such tactics from you.”

Kyoko’s gaze snapped over to see Byakuya half smirking. However, it lasted for only a moment before his gaze hardened and he glared over at her. In his eyes was a mixture of respect and caution.

He obviously realized how tactful she was and knew that her words for Taka were mainly for her own benefit. And, unfortunately for Kyoko, this also meant that his opinion of her had changed. Even if he would never admit it, she was now an adversary in his eyes, a threat to him. And if she understood anything about Byakuya Togami, it was that he would not tolerate any threat, no matter how insignificant.

Frustration built up inside as she realized she had made herself stand out and, eventually, she knew she would have to pay for her carelessness. However, both of them knew it was not the time for such things and so, without paying his words any mind, she began walking out of the bathroom.

“We need to hurry. Before Monokuma decides that we’re tardy,” she said bluntly, exiting the room and leaving Byakuya alone with Sayaka’s body.

However, he only lingered there long enough to scoff at her dismissal before he, too, departed the room.


 

…dark…so dark…pitch black darkness…

“EHYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”

…a scream…piercing through the blackness…reaching deep down…so familiar…the voice embedded in the scream…

…Makoto…

From deep within the darkness that consumed her consciousness, Sayaka began to stir. The voice of her friend, the one she’d betrayed, cut through the emptiness that surrounded her and forced her consciousness up to the surface…but only barely.

Then…something touched her.

She wasn’t sure who or what it was but she could feel something poking at her neck, then her wrist. She could hear voices as well. She couldn’t make out who or what they were but they ranged from calm and collected to frantic and desperate. And as those voices echoed around her, she summoned every last ounce of strength possible and tried to open her eyes.

However, her eyelids hardly even moved at all, no matter how hard she struggled. Despite that, she kept fighting to open them with everything she had left, unable to let herself give in.

“I…I’m still…”

Sayaka didn’t want to return to that darkness, the emptiness that was consuming her soul. She wanted to see the light, even if it was one last time. She wanted to see her friend Makoto…for she was sure it was his voice that had roused her.

It was then that, just as she felt her strength would give out, her eyes cracked open and blurred images barely came into focus.

Despite how hazy her vision was, she could make out three figures before her. One of them quickly departed, however, leaving only the other two standing near her. However, she didn’t think they were facing her, as they didn’t seem to notice her eyes narrowly opening to see them.

And even though she had utterly no strength left in her body, she still tried to force herself to call out.

“…Makoto…Leon…Anyone…Help…”

However, her voice never came and she was left to watch as the other two figures lingered for a moment before heading to depart. Unparalleled fear gripped Sayaka as she desperately tried to lift her hand to reach out to them, begging for them not to leave her…alone…in the darkness…that emptiness…

A single tear rolled down her cheek as the figures disappeared from her view. And when they were gone, Sayaka felt the last of her will to live disappear with them. Her tired eyes once again closed and she felt herself slipping back into that horrid darkness.

…deeper and deeper…she fell…deeper than before…consuming her…almost…entirely…


 

“…As far as class trial rules go, that’s all there is to it! Any questions?”

All of the students gathered in the gym broke out into a cold sweat as Monokuma finished explaining the class trial system. Nothing but questions flooded everyone’s minds but the answers were clearer than they ever wanted. The rules of the game were now laid bare for all of the students to understand. This was a game shrouded in despair.

If you want to escape, you must kill. If you want to live, you must condemn another to death.

No matter what, at least one more person was going to die today. Either it was the killer among them, or the rest of their class would follow after Sayaka. This was the true form of the killing game they were all forced to play.

And, unfortunately for Leon, he finally had the answers to the burning questions that had plagued him since his despicable act last night.

“No FUCKING way!! I knew it won’t be that easy but seriously!! An investigation AND a fucking trial?! If I had known that, I would have just left Sayaka to kill…herself…”

That dark thought consumed the Baseball Star’s mind as he felt cold sweat slip down his neck and back. A part of him wanted to believe that it wasn’t true, that having this horrifying bit of knowledge wouldn’t have affected his judgment last night. He desperately wanted to believe that he would still have tried to save Sayaka…but it was a lie.

He gritted his teeth and lowered his head in shame, everyone around him confusing it for anger toward their situation.

“Deep down…I’m just a coward…and I’m still running! But what other choice do I have! I don’t want to die either!!”

It was then that a fiercely angry voice disrupted his thoughts and he, along with everyone else, stared in shock as one of the students brazenly opposed the bear.


 

“Hey! Hold on just a second!” Junko abruptly shouted at Monokuma from the center of the room. “You’re freaking insane! You know that?!”

Makoto, as well as everyone else, turned to her in shock and almost utter disbelief. The Fashionista was the only one who didn’t seem to be reeling from the news the bear presented and she was already going on the offensive.

It was almost as if she predicted that something like this would happen…but how could that be?

“Class trial?! Why the hell do I have to do that?!” Junko suddenly continued, snapping Makoto back to reality. “I want nothing to do what that crap!”

As she shouted across the room at the demented bear, Monokuma simply turned his head to the side, as if confused by her words.

“Why not?” he plainly replied, as if it were unexpected for her to say such a thing.

A fearsome scowl overtook Junko’s features and she brazenly took a step toward the bear, seething, “What do you mean, ‘why not?’!! Why do I have to waste my time figuring out who murdered someone?! It’s totally unfair!!”

As the fashion model shouted her protests, Makoto’s brows furrowed as he noticed something felt…off about this conversation. As if Monokuma knew exactly what she was going to say and do, countering her with absolutely no surprise in his voice.

“What?! Are you saying you won’t participate in the trial?!” the bear shouted back, not nearly as surprised as he should have been. And then, Monokuma seemed to fill with glee as he finished, “Only punishment awaits such blasphemy!”

“What? What do you mean, ‘punishment’?!” Junko fired back, taking another step forward.

“I dunno…Maybe I’ll throw you in a dark hole or something?” the bear off-handedly remarked.

“Shut the hell up!” the model furiously screamed back, “Say whatever you want! I won’t be a part of this!”

The instant those words left her mouth, Makoto saw that there was something most definitely off about Junko. He hadn’t noticed it before, due to his mania over finding…Sayaka, but now he finally took note of something he’d definitely seen from her before.

Junko was completely flustered, her face reddening and clashing with her usually paled complexion. Not only that, she was being much much more abrasive than before. Even that time when he’d stopped her in the laundry room, she hadn’t been as frantic or as desperate as she seemed right now.

Not only that, as she continued to clash with the bear, she was steadily moving forward, away from the rest of the students. Each time Monokuma jeered or countered her, she was lured further and further toward him, until finally, she came to a halt directly in front of the podium on which the bear stood atop.

“Wait…is Monokuma trying to separate her from us?” Makoto suddenly began to piece together. “Why would he…?”

Before he could finish that thought, Makoto caught a glimpse of a fearsome sight. Up on the podium, he saw that Monokuma had a murderous glint in his sickening red eye…and it was growing more intense by the moment! Like he was begging for an excuse to punish someone!

“Don’t be so selfish!” Monokuma chided the model again, snickering as he did so.

As if a floodgate had broken in Junko’s mind, the Fashionista abruptly pointed one of her painted nails at the bear before shouting, “You’re the one being selfish! Kill whoever you want, it’s got nothing to do with me!”

As those words rang in his ears, Makoto’s breath hitched in his throat as he felt a wave of terror overtake him. With the way she was acting now, Makoto knew it was only a matter of time before she made a mistake like the one Mondo had…but with much more dire consequences this time!

This situation was getting out of control and what was worse, absolutely none of his fellow students appeared to have any desire to stop this madness!

All of them were merely watching intently, probably because they wanted to see what would happen when someone opposed the headmaster directly. However, none of them made a single move to help Junko if something did happen. Whether it was because of fear or curiosity varied between each student but one thing was certain…no one was going to interfere.

Anger suddenly filled Makoto as this revelation became clear. Part of it was at himself, for being one of the fearful students who couldn’t find a way to help. But what could he really do anyway? There was no way he could talk Junko down when she was like this. Besides if he just stayed quiet…

“…maybe I’ll be able to survive…” he briefly thought.

Just then, the image of Sayaka’s bloody body flashed in his mind and a wave of guilt suddenly overtook him.

“How…how is that any different from what happened with Sayaka?!”

Despite knowing it wasn’t his fault, Makoto placed all blame for Sayaka’s death on himself. He kept telling himself that if he had insisted that they stay in the same room or if he’d checked in on her during the night, then maybe…just maybe…she would still be with them.

He knew it was pointless to question such things after the fact but at this moment, he felt that, once again, he was at a crossroads. Junko’s behavior was dangerously similar to the way Sayaka had been acting last night, perhaps even more so since she was facing down their tormentor head on!

“And if…no one does anything now…will what happened to Sayaka…happen to Junko?!”

Without even realizing it himself, Makoto’s feet began to carry him forward. And strangely, no one seemed to notice him. Not the students who watched with bated breaths. Nor Junko or Monokuma who were too focused on their arguments.

Absolutely no one saw the Ultimate Lucky Student approach from the side.


 

Everything was going according to plan and Mukuro was more than pleased about that.

The failsafe that she and her sister had discussed was going better than she had thought. It was never completely laid out how Mukuro would get into position to be spirited away when a trap door beneath her would be activated, so she decided that venting her anger would be the best course of action.

And actually, not all of it was false. She was very frustrated with how the game had been proceeding lately and was more than ready to get the hell out.

She and Junko had practiced some of the lines they were using but ultimately, it had been up to Mukuro to get into position. And thankfully she almost was. Only another step and she would be directly over the hidden door under her feet.

Glancing at Monokuma, she knew that her sister would give her at least one more excuse to step forward and from there, she would finally be out of the game.

“…At least for now,” she grimly reminded herself.

Even knowing that she had more than her work cut out for her, she was eager to be ‘killed off’, so to speak. Her new task would be to cause havoc behind the scenes. What Junko meant by that, she wasn’t quite sure yet but she knew that her sister probably had everything planned. After all, her sister had never lied to her and she wasn’t in the habit of going back on her word.

And best of all, the first murder had completely enticed Junko, or at least enough for her to forget about the ultimatum she’d placed on her older sister.

“With this, Makoto will be safe…for a while at least.”

Mukuro couldn’t deny the relief she had felt when the body discovery announcement had been made, no matter how twisted that was. Because someone had stepped up and committed the first murder, there was no longer a need for her to have to target Makoto, considering the failsafe would need to be activated, as per Junko’s orders.

And even though Mukuro hadn’t discussed going through with the failsafe with Junko prior to this moment, she knew that her sister would want to stick to the plan and pull her from the game.

After all, if her classmates made the wrong choice, she didn’t want to get executed along with them.

“That’s why we created the failsafe in the first place…” she reasoned, convinced that Junko would be piping up any moment now.

And, as if on cue, Monokuma leapt onto the very top of the podium and proclaimed, “There is Evil standing before me…but I won’t give in!”

The automaton hopped off the podium and landed gracefully onto the floor a few feet away from the disguised Mukuro, bearing its teeth and claws only half menacingly.

“If you want to get out of here…you’ll have to go through me first!!!!”

Mukuro almost broke character and smirked as Monokuma waddled toward her, swinging its arms in circles and trying to appear menacing. And, conveniently enough, he came to a stop just in front of where Mukuro needed to be for her to ‘get caught’ in the trap door.

“Clever girl…” Mukuro thought to herself as she knew what needed to be done.

Lifting her boot, she slammed her foot down on top of Monokuma, taking that final step to be in place for the trap door.

The bear grunted in a mixture of what seemed to be shock and genuine surprise but that was probably for effect more than anything. Plus, the stomp was improvised and probably did take her sister by surprise, so it made it all the more believable for the rest of the students. And besides, it was something Mukuro knew the real Junko would do, so she didn’t question it.

And if she was being honest, Mukuro had put more than a little aggression into that stomp too. She would have words with Junko about coercing her into trying to kill Makoto, considering it was never planned or even mentioned at any point.

It was then that a tantalizing idea popped into Mukuro’s head, and this would be her only chance to realize it.

Staring down at the flattened Monokuma, a snide smirk overtook the soldier’s lips as she said, “Are you enjoying yourself now?!”

The double-entendre of her words were even more satisfying than she thought they would be! Her fellow students would have no idea the true meaning of her statement and it was enjoyable to poke fun at her sister’s fetish at the same time! Sure, she’d probably get scolded by Junko later but she’d live through that—

Or so she thought…until a voice so serious it chilled her to the bone reached her ears.

“Are you?”

Mukuro froze in sheer terror as the menacing voice of Monokuma invaded her mind, spiraling down deep into the very recesses of her soul.

Her feet almost lost their footing as she stared down at the automaton. The tone of that voice was more than enough for Mukuro to realize she had made a horrifying mistake. She could practically feel the rage being projected by her sister through the bear.

And without realizing it, she began to tremble as the bear growled a bit and continued, “Violence against Headmaster Monokuma is prohibited. You violated a school regulation…”

“Oh God…No…Junko’s wouldn’t really…”

Mukuro felt herself shudder.

The implication itself was enough to terrify the solider but it was the tone in which the bear spoke that petrified her even more. There was malice there, certainly, but underneath it all, Mukuro could have sworn that she heard a hint of…sadness, in the bear’s voice as it spoke. Almost as if Junko had just come to decision that actually made her feel regret. And considering that her little sister never regretted any decision she’d ever made before…this was beyond horrifying.

But then, as quickly as she thought she heard it, that inkling of sadness vanished completely as Monokuma waved its arms frantically and shouted:

“I invoke the magic summon spell! Come to me, Godly Spear Gungnir!!”


 

If he hadn’t have been standing beside Junko, he never would have seen it coming.

Makoto had continued to approach the unsuspecting arguers and had held in a gasp as he’d watched Junko slam her boot into the fearsome headmaster. After that, he barely registered what the two of them were saying because a chill ran down his spine and he found himself hearing a strange sound from the floor.

Looking down, he saw that small, square shaped holes had appeared all around Junko, surrounded her on all sides. They were very inconspicuous as well and Makoto realized that, if he had been only a few feet back, as he’d been only a moment ago, he never would have been able to see them.

Just as Junko never would have either.

And because of that, on instinct, he once again threw himself into danger to save his classmate.


 

“Watch out!!!”

Suddenly, something wrapped around her left arm and a fierce tug pulled her back. Extending out of her right hand to try and regain her balance, Mukuro didn’t have time to speak or even react as she finally noticed the slots in the floor that had opened up all around where she had just been standing. A burst of movement flashed before her and with it came a horrifying sensation.

…Pain…

It was a feeling that Mukuro had all but forgotten and now felt more than foreign to her. Nevertheless the agonizing sensation tore through her right hand as something long and slender pieced through it. Shock overtook the Ultimate Soldier’s senses and she slowly turned her dilating eyes to her grief stricken appendage.

Horror gripped her soul as she saw a long spear jutting up from one of the open slots in the floor, the tip of it piercing the back of her hand and protruding out the other side. As her blood spilled out of her hand and slid down the shaft of the spear, Mukuro felt something inside her twist and snap.

“ARRRRGGGGAHHHH!!!!”

Her voice tore through the room and pieced through the ears of everyone present. The sounds of her screams echoed all through the gym, only pausing long enough for her to suck in more air to continue the pain-fill shrill.

Again, before she even had time to react, the spear abruptly retracted itself, tearing out of her palm with a sickening cleaving sound. Bits of bloody flesh and muscle splattered to the floor as the open wound bled profusely.

Gritting her teeth so hard she felt they might crack, Mukuro reacted quickly and pressed her good hand against the gaping bloody hole in her other palm.

“Pressure! Keep pressure on wounds!” her mind frantically ordered, unable to do anything but panic at the sight of her own blood.

Because of that, she couldn’t concentrate enough to realize that she was only making the bleeding worse because she didn’t have anything to wrap around the wound. The pain was steadily increasing and just as she felt herself give in to her panic, a firm hand grasped her arm.

She turned to scream at whomever it was but froze as she saw that it was Makoto. His face showed his panic but behind it, a fierce determination resonated within his eyes.

“We need some kind of bandage!!” he shouted, desperation clear in his voice.

“Use this!”

A frilly handkerchief was tossed to them from the side and Mukuro had only caught a glimpse of Chihiro retracting her arm. Grabbing it without hesitation, Makoto pulled away the hand pressing down on the wound and began wrapping the cloth around gaping hole in her hand.

However, it was too small to properly wrap around her hand. Thinking quickly, Makoto instead pressed the handkerchief against the hole in her palm while using his other hand to try and cover the hole on the back of her hand. Again, the pain of the needed pressure made Mukuro shrill.

“Arhhhhhhh! Ahhhhh!”

As her screams filled the area once more, Mukuro’s teary eyes shot toward the now standing Monokuma, a single thought tearing at her mind.

“Why…Junko…WHY?!?!”


 

Even with the pressure Makoto was putting on the wound, it just continued to bleed more and more profusely.

And unfortunately, without something to stop the bleeding on both sides of her hand, the wound only worsened and even someone with no medical knowledge like Makoto knew he was doing more harm than good. And at this rate, Junko was going to lose more than just her hand!

“I can’t stop the bleeding!” he reluctantly admitted aloud, practically begging for someone to help him.

“Let me see it!”

Makoto was surprised when Hina suddenly materialized at his side, glaring at the sloppy job he was doing of containing the injury.

Overwhelmed with surprise, Makoto lost his grip on the wound and was lightly pushed aside as Hina took his place. One glance at it and she frowned, paling slightly at seeing so much blood loss. However, she shook her head, probably swallowing bile as well, before turning and glancing to everyone.

“We need more bandages to stop the bleeding! Anything will work, so long as it’s big enough—”.

Before she even finished, sound of ripping gained everyone’s attention. They all turned to see Sakura, her massive hands tearing off large portions of her own shirt, making numerous strips of makeshift bandages.

“Hina, take these!” Sakura insisted, handing the oversized strips to her friend.

A bright smile overtook Hina’s face for a moment as she grabbed the bandages from her friend before turning back to attend to Junko’s wound. As she furiously wrapped the strips around the gaping, bloody hole, Makoto’s eyes drifted around the room.

Most of the students, including Taka, Leon, Chihiro, Hiro and Hifumi, were paralyzed with shock. Mondo angrily stood nearby, obviously wanting to help but not having a clue as to how he could. Toko was clutching her head and staring down at the floor, muttering incoherently. Celeste and Byakuya remained at a distance, observing the situation carefully. All the while, Kyoko glared at Monokuma, as if she could barely hold herself back as she observed the scene.

And behind all of them, Monokuma stood grinning at them all.


 

Far away in the control room, the real Junko Enoshima breathed heavily as she looked at the screen.

“Shit! She survived! How the hell did that happen?!” she screamed, angrily throwing a large plush Monokuma doll furiously against the wall.

As soon as she did, stopped herself and took a deep breath. Then another…and another…and another…until she was sure that the adrenaline had worked its way out of her system. Taking one last deep inhale to collect herself, the mastermind returned to the Monokuma control panel and took her seat.

“It’s fine…I can work with this…it’ll be more fun this way anyway…”

After all, the despair of having to swallow the disappointment of failing to kill her sister was more than enough of a reward. Besides, her sister being alive could still be despairingly useful.


 

“Wow! Now that sure was surprising!” Monokuma suddenly proclaimed, forcing everyone to turn its way. “I never imagined she’d live through that! But I guess everyone gets lucky now and again!”

Rearing its head back and cackling, the bear let the anger of the students seethe for a bit longer before it continued.

“Normally, I’d need to finish the job and complete the punishment.”

Hearing this, Makoto could only watch as Junko’s head shot up and slowly, despite the pain, she turned to stare helplessly at Monokuma. Makoto gritted his teeth in anger as pain-stricken tears spilled from the Fashionista’s sky-blue eyes as fear began to overtake her. On instinct, he moved to stand between her and the bear but Monokuma resumed before he even stood up.

“However, I really want to avoid a corpse popping up unintentionally…at least if I can help it.”

Everyone gave a collective sigh of relief at hearing that, especially Junko, though she still held more a fair share amount of terror in her eyes.

“However!” Monokuma abruptly continued, startling everyone. “I hope that now you see just how serious I am about those regulations. Defy me and you get shot full of holes! Exploded! Buried alive! Disintegrated…et cetera. So, if you don’t want that to happen to you, you’d better follow the rules…or end up like Junko here!!

As Monokuma shouted those final words, it was evident that things had not gone as he’d planned. Even so, their captor had demonstrated that they were more than willing to kill anyone who protested or went against the rules. So, even though they had failed to kill someone, the message had been delivered perfectly.

It was at this time Makoto noticed that Kyoko, unlike the other students, was steadily approaching Monokuma, a displeased glare on her face.

“…Why did you try and kill her? Didn’t you say that you were going to imprison her or something?” Kyoko bluntly questioned, not backing down even in the face of the bear’s angry stare.

An instant later, Monokuma scoffed and turned away before replying, “…I changed my mind—”

“No,” Kyoko abruptly cut in, her glare intensifying. “You’ve been wanting to kill this entire time.”

To this, Monokuma gave a playful expression and answered, “Kill this entire time? Don’t be stupid…you can’t kill time! Trust me, I tried…”

Perhaps the automaton became fed up with its own jokes or simply wanted to leave, but for some reason, its persona changed to be very serious as it brushed off Kyoko’s words.

And, if no one else, Makoto was getting more and more frustrated by the moment. For he could hear Junko’s whimpers as Hina continued to try and stop the bleeding, the blood easily soaking through all the makeshift bandages.

“Anyway, none of that matters now!” Monokuma proclaimed placing it’s paws on its hips. “I have something that will help you in your investigation and your search for the blackened—!”

Being reminded of the fact that they still needed to solve Sayaka’s murder made something inside of Makoto snap. Without warning, he shot to his feet and shouted, “How the hell are we supposed to think about that when our friend is bleeding to death?!?!”

A heavy silence followed his outburst, no one expecting to hear such brave words from him.

However, it was almost immediately broken as Monokuma jeered, “Tsk, she’ll be fine! Trust me, it’s a flesh wound. An injury like that won’t be enough to kill—”.

“No! That’s wrong!”

Again, everyone was stunned into silence as Makoto abruptly shouted from across the room. Even Monokuma was deafly quiet as the Lucky Student pointed at the wound in Junko’s hand.

“Wounds like that can get easily infected and if we don’t treat it soon, she could die from it! It may not be today but if left long enough, it’ll only get worse! We have to take care of it now!”


 

Beneath her guise, Mukuro contended with the pain as best she could but it was a losing battle.

Even the lightest twitch of her hand sent massive jolts of agony to her brain and she fought to keep her breathing under control. She wasn’t even sure how she’d managed to stay conscious, considering she was hardly breathing.

She could hear the others arguing with Monokuma, but after hearing that the bear didn’t plan to finish the job, she had begun to phase out most of whatever else it was saying. However, that was mainly because her fragile mind was barely hanging on and focusing on her wound kept her from thinking about why…Junko…

Another surge of pain rippled through her hand and Mukuro gritted her teeth as she finally registered that someone was screaming. Turning her head, through blurry, tearful eyes she saw Makoto directly challenging Monokuma.

She missed most of what he was saying but the one thing she could make out was that Makoto was gesturing to her. Was he actually…defending her…?

He seemed so fierce and powerful, even Monokuma didn’t dare refute him. Which meant that…even Junko wasn’t going against him …how was he able to silence her?!


 

“We’re not doing anything else before we get her some medical treatment!” the Ultimate Lucky Student shouted, glaring at Monokuma so intensely that the bear seemed stunned into silence.

At the same time, Makoto took a moment to glance to Junko, checking if she was alright. And for a brief moment, the Fashionista turned her head upward, watery sky-blue eyes filled with agony staring up at him.

“Hey, you little bastard!” Monokuma suddenly fired back, making the boy snap his head back toward the demented bear. “The investigation and class trial have to come first! That’s the rules and you know what happens to—!”

“Then at least give us some proper medical supplies to treat her with,” Sakura cut the bear off this time, her muscular arms folded sternly over her chest.

Monokuma growled and was about to retort but lost the chance to as Makoto challenged it again. “Some of us can go and treat Junko, while the rest of us get started on the investigation. That should work out fine shouldn’t it?”

His fierce proclamation was met with another pause, no one wanting or willing to disrupt it. Or at least it seemed that way, until another voice quickly joined his own.

“Yeah! Makoto’s right!” Hina abruptly concurred, still holding onto Junko’s bleeding hand, the bandages quickly proving not to be enough to hold in the blood. “She needs real medical treatment! Like stat!”

“And besides,” Kyoko’s calm voice startled everyone, making them turn to her in shock, “If one of us isn’t able to participate in the class trial, won’t that technically be a violation of the school regulations? And since you refused to allow her treatment, the fault would lie solely with you.”

Even though Makoto didn’t have time to say it, he was incredibly grateful that the mysterious girl had come to their defense. She was so calm in the face of all this and he couldn’t help but feel at ease as she presented her argument. And considering she’d remained so silent up until now, he was pleased that she’d decided to speak up when she did.

Slightly fuming from being cut off in the middle of explaining, Monokuma turned red before retorting, “Alright already! If you’re that hyped up about it…I guess I can open up the Nurse’s Office for you. There are real bandages, gauze and even painkillers in there to fix her up with. Will that shut you up and get you back on track?!”

“It will suffice for now,” Sakura admitted, her spite clear in her deep voice.

“Alrighty then,” Monokuma replied, glaring rather menacingly at Sakura for a moment before turning to the others. “For those of you investigating, I have included a gift for you in your e-handbooks…The Monokuma File! Look over it and get busy! I’m out!!”

Without warning, a large trap door opened up just beneath Monokuma and the bear fell through, maniacal laughter echoing as the door shut itself.

“Now then, who shall go and investigate while we take her to get treated?” Sakura asked, folding her arms and glancing around the room.

Before anyone could speak, Mondo pushed his way toward the injured Fashionista, flung his coat over her shoulders and wrapped his arms around her to pick her up. If Junko was surprised, she barely showed it, the pain from her palm making her wince as he lifted her, distracting her from what she probably would have found an embarrassing situation in any other setting.

“I’ll take her to the nurse’s office,” he finally explained, holding Junko bridal style to help her be more comfortable. “I’m no good at this investigating shit, so I figure this is the best I can do.”

“Very well then! I shall lead the others to the crime scene while you assist our classmate!” Taka finally broke out of his stupor and rallied, returning to his usual strict and moral self.

“While we’re on the subject,” Celeste politely intervened, finally making her presence known, “I don’t believe that we should leave the scene of the crime unattended. In case the killer tries to return and destroy evidence.”

There was a heavy silence for a moment and even if it was only for a second, it looked as if Makoto wanted to refute her. However, not even he was naïve enough to question that logic and instead remained silent.

“I’ll do it.”

None of them were surprised to hear Sakura volunteer for the position. Her massive form would be enough to intimidate even the most deceptive of culprits and even more so, her honorable nature made her the most likely candidate.

Even so, it wasn’t enough for everyone.

“We can’t have you on watch by yourself,” Byakuya insisted, pushing his glasses up with his middle finger. “If you’re the killer, you’ll undoubtedly tamper with evidence.”

“What?! How dare you think that Sakura would—?!” Hina began to shout before Sakura laid a hand on her shoulder.

“It is alright. He makes a sound point,” the Martial Artist reluctantly concurred, “We should have at least two guarding the scene.”

Although Hina was still fuming and wanted to chastise Byakuya, she didn’t want to argue with her friend and instead said, “Alright then! I’ll guard the scene with you!”

“I’m afraid that this time, I, cannot agree with that.”

Everyone turned to see Celeste politely folding her hands under her chin and smiling sweetly.

“And why is that?” Sakura questioned, her eyes narrowing dangerously.

Giving a light chuckle, as if mocking them, Celeste explained, “The two of you seem so close and if it turns out that one of you are the killer, the other might try and cover it up. We can’t have that, now can we?”

The tension in the air grew thicker and thicker as the class already began to divide itself. It wouldn’t be long before distrust and fear took hold of everyone completely. And there was at least one student that recognized that and decided to intervene.

“Why not have Mondo guard the scene with Sakura instead?” Kyoko abruptly offered, snapping everyone’s head over to her but then quickly over to the biker.

Flinching under their gazes, Mondo flushed as he countered, “H-Hey dammit! I’ve got to take Junko to the nurse’s office!”

“That’s fine,” Kyoko assured him, “And when you’re done, you can join Sakura in guarding the scene of the crime. That should suffice, shouldn’t it?”

Her question was fired directly at Celeste, whom nodded her head and smiled, “This is fine with me.”

No more objections were raised and it seemed that Kyoko had managed to settle the animosity that was slowly building, even if she had to make demands to do so.

And Mondo wasn’t the only one to realize that Kyoko wasn’t asking for his cooperation, she was practically ordering him. And everyone knew how Mondo felt about being told what to do. The only thing that stunted his fury at her command was the fact that he was holding a bleeding girl in his arms.

“Fine then,” he angrily huffed as he turned toward the door, but not before he snuck a quick glance at Hina. “Besides, a girl shouldn’t have to guard the crime scene. That’s a man’s job.”

No one commented on the fact that Sakura, also a girl, was the other one guarding the scene but considering he was going along with it, correcting him now would do more harm than good.

Besides, Hina didn’t seem to mind his comment as she fervently replied, “If that’s the case…I’ll go with Junko to the nurse’s office and help get her patched up.”

“I’m going too!”

No one was surprised to hear Makoto speak up, practically materializing beside Mondo and Hina as they carried Junko out the door.

As soon as the doors closed, Taka turned to his fellow classmates and was about to shout for all of them to get going when he noticed someone was missing.

“Has anyone seen Hiro?! Where has he gone off to?” the Moral Compass asked, prompting everyone to look around for him.

“Yeah…he’s over there,” Leon informed everyone, pointing to the corner.

All of them turned to see Hiro crouching in the corner, clutching his head tightly with snot and tears gushing down his face.

“…So…so this is…ALL REAL!!!!” he frantically shouted before throwing his arms up to the sky. “NOOOOO!!!!!! LET ME OUTTA HERE!!!!!!”

“Y-Y-Your just n-now accepting it?!” Toko almost shouted, completely flabbergasted.

In the midst of Hiro panicking, Celeste opened up her e-handbook and glanced over the Monokuma File. A slight grin spread over her lips as she read through its entirety.

“Hmm, so the crime took place in Makoto’s room…” she said loud enough for everyone to hear.


 

“…How…how could this…have happened to me?...”

Mukuro sat on one of the few beds in the nurse’s office, Mondo’s coat still firmly wrapped around her shoulders and her injured hand extended out while her classmates bandaged her. As soon as he had set her down, Mondo had quickly departed, saying he needed to get guarding the scene and he would leave the rest to Hina and Makoto. He’d been kind enough to wish Mukuro well but she had barely heard it, too shocked to register much of what was going on right now.

She stared blankly at the floor, her fragile mind unable to comprehend how it had come to this.

“…And there! That should do it!” Hina proclaimed as she finished tying the last of the bandages firmly around her hand.

Barely lifting her head, Mukuro gazed at her bandaged injury in disgust. Not only did it ache terribly from being cleaned and scrubbed with anti-septic, the only bandages they had been able to find in the whole of the office were ‘Monokuma Bandages’, the half and half bear’s evil face stitched into every few inches of the cloth.

The very image of that bear sent chills down her spine, accompanied by a deep despair she knew her sister had to be reveling in. The soldier felt herself tremble as she reminded herself to keep breathing, shaken though her breaths were.

“Junko…”

Slowly tearing her vision away from her hand, the disguised girl looked up to see Makoto looking down at her with a mixture of concern and pity.

“Do you need anything? Like a glass of water or something?”

Staring up at him, she could see his sympathy overflowing but it only caused a sharp pain to sting her chest. The boy who she had been ready to kill just a few hours ago was now the one to save her life. Karma was being more than a bitch to her, as the hurt of her decision came back in full swing.

Behind him, Hina put away the wipes and bandages but also gave her a piteous look. She had immediately set to dressing the deep wound once they had arrived and did it with such determination that Mukuro felt ashamed that she had never really acknowledged the swimmer girl before this point. Even though they had ‘hung out’ a few times, she’d only seen Hina as a target…never a friend.

“…I don’t want their pity…I don’t…deserve it…”

For a moment, when it didn’t look as if she would respond, both Makoto and Hina inched closer but were startled when she did finally speak.

“…Alone…I want to be…alone…”

To this, both of her classmates gave a quizzical look but neither of them left. Instead, she heard Makoto say, “But…we can’t just leave you here all by yourself.”

“That’s right! What if Monokuma decides to go back on his word and kill you?!” Hina concurred, not realizing that her words were doing more harm than good.

Mukuro flinched at the mention of Monokuma but managed to hold herself together long enough to reply, “You have to go and…investigate. It’s the rules…and you can’t…break…them…”

She trailed off as her vision floated over to her injured hand. She hoped that her message got across to them, needing both of them to leave for personal and private reasons.

“…Alright. If that’s what you want,” Makoto finally gave in, surprising Hina for a second. “But as soon as we can, we’ll be back to check on you. Okay?”

Without lifting her head, Mukuro gave a stout nod, “Okay…thanks.”

Very slowly, her two classmates headed for the door and she listened as they slid it open. However, just before she heard the door close, she lifted her head to see them go. When she did, she caught one last glimpse of Makoto, his worried expression burned into her memory as he exited the room.

Watching as the door was slowly slid shut, her expression shifted into one of agony and rage.

“Rrrrgh…” she grunted as she gripped the wrist of her injured hand. Very carefully, she flexed and retracted each finger on her hand, and each time, a sharp jolt of pain surged through her entire arm.

“…Extensive…nerve…damage…” she whispered to herself, unable to completely ball her hand into a fist. Tilting her hand over to see the other side, as she stared at the back of her bandaged hand, a new thought occurred to her.

“…the mark…of Fenrir…”

It wasn’t until those words left her lips that she realized that her tattoo, the symbol of her time as a mercenary, was now gone forever. Her source of strength and pride had been impaled, literally, and ripped from her without mercy or hesitation. And with it, Mukuro felt a part of her soul had been cleaved away.

Suddenly, a familiar but hateful voice shook the room.

“Look on the bright side! You won’t have to worry about covering up that ugly tattoo anymore!”

Junko’s voice resounded through the room and Mukuro’s head shot up, a fearsome glare overtaking all of her features. Standing before her, closing the door quietly as to not draw the attention of any nearby students, the demented Monokuma grinned at her.

All fear was forgotten the moment she heard her sister’s voice through the automaton and Mukuro leapt to her feet, the coat lent by her biker classmate falling to the floor. Anger coursed through the soldier’s veins and she pointed at the bear with her uninjured hand.

“Is that all you have to say?! You lied to me! You tried to kill me, Junko!!”

Despite her loud volume, her sister didn’t reprimand her. And if she wasn’t upset that Mukuro had spoken her name aloud, then it meant that Junko was certain they weren’t being overheard. Which was both a blessing and curse for the injured soldier, because it also meant that Junko was uninhibited as well. Even so, the soldier was too worked up not to protest.

“I followed through with your failsafe! I did everything you wanted me to do! Why did you betray me?! Was it because I back-talked in front of everyone?! Didn’t I play the part like I was supposed to?! Wasn’t I supposed to—?!”

Through the bear, a loud sigh interrupted Mukuro’s tirade.

“I’m disappointed in you, Mukuro. You failed to see what was right in front of you this whole time.”

All of Mukuro’s protests stopped the instant those words reached her ears but she managed to choke out, “Wh-What are you talking about?”

Before going any further, Monokuma slowly walked over to a nearby stool and hopped up onto it. Standing tall and mighty, the bear folded its arms and gave a very furious expression.

“You want to know why I tried to kill you? It’s because you broke the rules, you stupid bitch!!”

Pure rage exploded from Junko’s voice as she shouted at her sister and the instant she heard it, Mukuro’s entire body trembled. This was the second time she’d ever seen her sister display such anger, the first being just after she regained her memories and committed her first murder. And since history tends to repeat itself, it was certain that disaster was soon to follow.

Mukuro slowly backed up until her back hit the wall but with nowhere to go, she soon found her sister had taken a deep breath to continue:

“I told you, over and over and over and over again! Don’t break the fucking rules or I’ll have to enforce them! And what did you do…you attacked Monokuma in front of everyone!! How the hell did you think I was gonna respond to that?! If I didn’t punish you, then everyone would have known something was up!”

Mukuro’s entire body shook as Junko’s voice continued to assault her, the remote controlled bear waving its arms emphatically all the while.

“You say that I lied to you?! That I betrayed you?! No! You brought this on yourself for being such a fuck up! You can barely act the part of being me, despite how long I practiced with you! And then you pull this!”

Despite the overwhelming fear and terror that kept her pressed against the wall, Mukuro finally found her voice and tried to say, “B-But! You moved Monokuma in the way! I couldn’t get to the spot! I didn’t want to but you made me—!”

“Then you should have stepped to the side, let him get through, and then went to your spot…like I told you to do!”

“B-But…you never…I…didn’t think that…”

“Enough! I don’t want to hear it!” Junko snapped, the bear holding out one paw to gesture silence. Mukuro immediately complied, not wanting to anger her sister any further.

For a moment, there was a heavy silence between them, only the sounds of their breathing echoed as the pair stared each other down. Deep inside, Mukuro felt something within her beginning to crack, like a premonition of despair welling up inside her soul, threatening to consume her.

And then, the sound of very deep, cleansing breaths came from Monokuma, and Mukuro hoped that her sister had finally settled down. That hope was dashed, however, when her sister’s voice came back, softer and yet even more menacing than before.

“It seems that I’m going to have to complete your punishment after all. And I’ve prepared a very special one.”

Her entire body freezing, Mukuro’s breath hitched in her throat as her fate became clear to her. Sky-blue eyes widened and she clutched her injured hand close to her chest, pressing herself even harder against the wall. At the same time, her voice began to crack.

“N-No…please…Junko…I didn’t…I don’t…”

Without warning, Monokuma leapt off the stool and landed directly in front of Mukuro, staring up at her with a neutral expression, stunning the soldier into silence again.

“My very special punishment for Mukuro Ikusaba, the Ultimate Soldier, is……to play the game like everyone else…as Junko Enoshima, of course.”

Mukuro’s eyes widened and a gasp escaped her lips as she heard her fate. Unconsciously, she began to lightly shake her head as Junko continued, “From here on, you’ll get no more special privileges. You are allowed to play the game however you see fit, as long as you don’t ever reveal who you really are. If you do, even unintentionally, I will consider it a rule-breaker and punish you accordingly.”

Mukuro’s lips quivered and she tried to form words but her voice failed her, her mouth hanging open as she tried, in vain, to question her sister.

In response, Junko gave another sigh before saying, “I’ll excuse you from the first trial as a parting gift. So, even if those idiots don’t figure out that the baseball hater killed the pop idol, you’ll survive. But this is the last favor I’m doing for you.”

Turning Monokuma away from the startled soldier, the bear glanced over its shoulder and finished, “Good luck in the game.”

Without giving Mukuro any time to accept this horrific knowledge, Monokuma began walking away from the trembling soldier and headed directly for the door.

Snapping out of her petrified state, Mukuro fell forward onto her knees and begged, “Y-You can’t…you can’t be serious! Junko! Junko, you can’t—!”

“Stop calling me that.”

Mukuro’s eyes shot up as her sister reprimanded her, Monokuma whirling around to stare at her disgraceful appearance. Her sister scoffed at the wig on her head, frazzled and unkempt, stared with contempt at the spots of blood on her blouse, and practically sneered at the hints of moisture that threatened to spill from her sister’s eyes.

With a huff, she continued, “You’re Junko Enoshima now. And you will be for the rest of your…short as that life will probably be.”

Again, Mukuro shook her head and pleaded, “No…please don’t do this. Death…give me death instead of abandoning—!”

“As far as I’m concerned,” Junko cut her off and had the bear turn away again, “Mukuro Ikusaba is dead…”

“No!...No!...Sister! Sister, please!”

Ignoring Mukuro’s incessant begging, Monokuma strode up to the door and opened it, stepped out into the hallway.

With each step, the soldier felt herself slipping more and more into despair, giving her sister exactly what she wanted but slowly killing herself at the same time. And as the bear crossed over to the other side of the door, Mukuro struggled to hold onto the last bit of sanity she could as she reached out her arm for her sister…desperately pleading this was another of her sister’s sick and twisted tests.

However, her reality was shattered as Monokuma turned around a final time, grasped the side of the sliding door, and allowed for Junko to deliver one final message:

“…Don’t ever call me that again…”

It was those words, not the slamming of the door, that broke Mukuro’s spirit. As the squishy sounds of Monokuma’s footsteps echoed down the hallway, she collapsed into the fetal position, gasping for breath as her lungs seemed to refuse to allow her to breath, wrapping her arms around herself tightly.

Moments later, deep, heart-wrenching sobs echoed throughout the nurse’s office as true despair was visited upon her.


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

“Kyoko? What are you doing?”

Even though she clearly heard his question, Kyoko ignored Makoto’s query completely, keeping her attention focused on the numerous scratch marks on the floor of Makoto’s room. She ran her gloved fingers through the fibers of the carpet and just when she though she noticed something important, her classmate spoke up again.

“Did you lose a contact lens or something?”

A soft grunt escaped her, but she made sure to keep it inaudible. Her concentration broken by his inane questioning, Kyoko fought to keep her emotionless façade intact amid the frustration that boiled up within.

“How naïve can this boy be?! Can’t he see that I’m in the middle of a very sensitive investigation?!”

Instead of scolding him for his idiocy, she merely let out a soft breath before she replied, “What does it look like I’m doing?”

She foolishly hoped that he would get the message and either begin his own investigation or leave her be to continue but instead, she realized that she should have merely kept her mouth shut.

“I…I don’t know?”

This time, she couldn’t help the audible groan that escaped her, no matter how she tried. Despite his brave actions in the gym earlier, it seemed that Makoto was just as inept and useless as she had feared he would be. Then again, it had been the same with her other classmates.

Once everyone had gathered after delivering Junko to the nurse’s office, Celeste ‘conveniently’ pointed out that, since the room actually belonged to Makoto, the chance of him being the killer was high. From there, almost everyone blindly assumed this to be true and weren’t even bothering to assist in the investigation.

Even Byakuya, who seemed far wiser than he let on, was doing minimal investigating. And no doubt, like the others, he had come to the conclusion that Makoto had to be the killer…despite the fact that it was all far too obvious and blatantly done with the intent of framing the Lucky Student. Sure the possibility had existed that he was the culprit but the evidence proving his innocence was practically abundant. And no one took the time to even think of another possibility!

The ineptitude of her classmates tied a knot in her stomach and she felt as though she was truly alone in this case.

“If this keeps up, I’ll have no choice but to take the lead and resolve this case myself. I wanted to avoid making myself a target for the more ambitious students but if I don’t solve this, then I’m certain that no one else will. And I won’t let myself die because my classmates can’t use simple…logic…”

Again a wave of nostalgia washed over her as she questioned how this all came to her so naturally. Was this logic so simple? It came to her easily enough but perhaps that’s all it was. And if that was the case, did it mean that her classmates weren’t as inept as they were simply untrained? But that would mean that she had been trained to in the art of criminal investigation, which could lead to—

Kyoko abruptly squeezed her eyes shut and forced her thoughts to grind to a halt. Now wasn’t the time for such ideas.

If she let herself get distracted now, she might overlook something important and be unable to save everyone from a horrific fate. With that in mind, she resumed her inspection of the slash marks on the floor, not to mention the absence of a vital clue that would determine whom had been in the room.

“There’s absolutely no hair in this room. How can that be? Stray strands always fall, even if we’re unaware of it. It’s often the greatest clue that points to the culprit in these cases—wait, how do I know—”.

Again, she forced herself away from the nostalgia that plagued her, doing her best do keep focused and not let her mind slip into concentrating on her past. This case was life or death and even if it was awakening her buried memories, she had to remain vigilant.

“Right now, the murder has to take precedence. Stay focused…”

Standing up, she realized that Makoto must have given up on speaking with her because he had disappeared from behind her and was currently looming outside the bathroom door. Not that she blamed him for that, seeing a friend dead would make anyone hesitate. Which is why Kyoko was able to investigate Sayaka’s body with no issues, she hadn’t consider the Pop Idol a friend and therefore was able to push away those unsettling emotions.

Even so, she’d been respectful and only spent the required amount of time examining the body. And now, she decided to extend that same courtesy to Makoto as he swallowed his bile and quietly entered the bathroom.

When he was out of sight, she decided to check one final spot before concluding her investigation of the crime scene and moving on to the trash room, where she was certain some evidence had been disposed of.

Leaving that thought alone for now, she ventured over and sat down at Makoto’s desk near his bed. Almost instantly, she noticed the pad of paper was set far off to the side and the pencil that usually was supposed to be in a small holster was sitting atop the pad. The cleanly appearance made Kyoko believe that the desk had probably been untouched by the fight that must have taken place.

But then, why was the pad and pencil far removed from—!!

Almost subconsciously, Kyoko’s hands reached out, grasping the pencil tightly and pulling the pad over to her. With quick furious swipes, she shaded in the top page of the pad and her eyes widened as a message began to form. She read it quickly as she continued to shade, only stopping when she read the name signed at the bottom of the page:

Sayaka Maizono

“So then…it wasn’t Sayaka who was attacked but instead instigated the assault. Unfortunately, she was smart enough not to include the name of her intended victim. If only she’d written their name…”

Folding the note and surreptitiously placing it into her coat pocket, Kyoko was about to go over her evidence when her brain finally caught up with her actions. She stood up from her seat and stared down, almost in wonder, at her handiwork.

“The shading…how did I know to do that? It seems almost like the kind of trick a detective would use on a murder mystery. Did that mean I received similar training? It would certainly explain my knowledge of criminal investigations. Could that mean that my title was the Ultimate—?”

Abruptly, her gloved hand shot up and lightly slapped the side of her cheek.

Letting the stinging sensation course through her, she scolded herself for letting her mind wonder back to that issue. Even if she had been on the cusp of remembering something, she knew that she also was close to piecing together this crime. And no matter how desperately she wanted to remember her past, she knew that now was not to the time to focus on it.

“There will be plenty of time to discover my past later. First and foremost, I have to survive long enough to uncover the answers.”

Pushing away those lingering distracting thoughts, Kyoko instead focused on recounting the evidence she’d discovered.

“…Evidence of a struggle. The decorative sword with its gold plating rubbed off. The sword sheath scratches. The broken doorknob. The bloody knife on the floor of the bathroom. The bandages wrapped around the body. Her right wrist was broken. Blood on her left index fingertip. The dying message – 11037…”

As she silently passed by Mondo and Sakura on her way out of the room, Kyoko’s mind kept coming back to those numbers.

“…11037…11037…11037…11037…11037…”

She calmly opened the door and stepped out into the hall. She barely heard her fellow students, Leon and Hifumi, speaking as her feet carried her away from the crime scene and toward the trash room. All the while, her mind continued to process…

“…11037…11037…11037…11037…N037…!!”

Her lavender eyes widened as the sounds of the world suddenly came back to her, beginning with the tiniest of gasps as her mind cruelly pieced together the plot of this case. Glancing over her shoulder, she finally noticed one of her classmates nervously scratching his head, sweat trickling down his neck, occasionally stealing a glance toward the crime scene as he ran a hand through his fiery crimson hair.

“...LEON...”


 

“…Please go through the red door on the first floor of the school!”

Leon heard the announcement just as everyone else did. And, knowing that there was no defying the demented bear, he slowly carried himself to the large red double doors. Along the way, he snuck one final glance back at the door leading to what he had thought was Sayaka’s room.

In the end, he didn’t even go inside to pretend to investigate. He feared that if he crossed that threshold again, he might break down and give in to the little voice that told him he should turn himself in. It had been there, agonizing him ever since he’d been told his fellow students would be executed if he wasn’t found out. Even so…

“I…I don’t want to die…I’m…I’m not ready! I have to…I have to become a rock star and—”.

The moment he thought of that, images of Sayaka smiling happily and promising to teach him flashed before his eyes…the horrific vision of her bloody corpse replacing those happy memories an instant later.

His dreams…died with Sayaka. He knew it was true…but right now, that lie was the only thing holding him together.

Pushing open the red doors, Leon found that he was one of the first to arrive, with Celeste and Byakuya already there. He carefully walked past them and leaned against the far wall, folding his arms and watching as everyone else strode in. Makoto was the last of them and he was instantly met with harsh glares.

A heavy pressure weighed down Leon’s chest as his fellow students labeled the Lucky Student as the killer. And even though Makoto insisted it wasn’t true, no one seemed to believe him.

“That’s good.” Leon thought as he watched Toko blatantly accuse his classmate of his own crime, “No one has any idea it was me. And all I have to do is…make sure…that no one finds…”

He couldn’t finish his own thought as he saw a hint of moisture build up in the corner of Makoto’s eyes before they were furiously wiped away. The accused boy was fighting off the pain of not only losing his close friend but the agony of being blamed for her death. Leon pretended to turn away from his classmate in disgust but in reality, the disgust was for himself.

But what choice did he have? He didn’t want to die…like Sayaka.

Just as his guilt was about to consume him, Monokuma suddenly appeared near the elevator door and shouted, “Alrighty! Everyone seems to be here! So then, we can finally get the underway—!”

“Hold on a moment.”

Everyone froze as Kyoko’s stern voice called out; making many of them turn to her. Even Leon found himself surreptitiously glancing her way as she pushed herself to the head of the crowd to stand before Monokuma.

“What about Junko Enoshima?” she asked, choosing not to elaborate.

Monokuma tilted it’s head sideways and answered, “What about Junko Enoshima?”

“I mean, why is she being excluded from this trial?” the lavender haired girl questioned.

Correcting it’s posture, the bear lowered its head before replying, “Given her injury and the fact that all of you made such a fuss over it,” he shot a quick glare to Makoto before continuing, “I’ve decided to exclude her from this trial. After all, it’s my job as Headmaster to look out for my students!”

Monokuma’s head shot up as it gave a cheeky laugh, holding it’s sides for emphasis.

A slightly sigh escaped Kyoko before she continued, “If one of us is missing, how can we be expected to solve this case?”

Her query ceased the bear’s laughter instantly, a feat that shocked most of the students.

“That’s quite true,” Celeste chipped in, taking a step forward. “What if Junko is somehow connected to this case? Or perhaps she knows something we do not? Wouldn’t that be an unfair advantage for the killer?”

“Agreed,” Byakuya concurred, unfolding his arms and glancing toward the door, “Someone go and fetch her.”

“I-I-I’ll go!” Toko abruptly, and surprisingly, volunteered. However, she didn’t even have time to take a step before a furious growl echoed through the room.

“Dammit! I’m tired of waiting and I won’t accept any more delays!” Monokuma suddenly shouted, gaining everyone’s attention. “Fine then! I wouldn’t normally do this but my hands are tied!”

Inexplicably from behind itself, Monokuma pulled out a large megaphone, took a moment to adjust it, and then placed it at the center of what could be considered it’s mouth.

“Listen up, you punks! Junko Enoshima had absolutely NOTHING to do with this case! She wasn’t involved in the murder nor does she have any connection to it at all! That’s why she’s being excluded! Get over it and get in the damn elevator!!!”

Suddenly, the metal doors to the elevator slid open and before anyone could protest, Monokuma had slipped away and was nowhere to be found. A heavy silence overtook the group for a moment, as none of them were quite sure what to believe.

However, order suddenly returned as an annoyed scoff broke the silence.

“At least that clears up one thing,” Byakuya said as he adjusted his glasses. “We now know that Junko is not the killer.”

“W-We already knew t-t-that!” Toko insisted, pointing an accusing finger at Makoto. “H-He’s obviously the killer! So w-what’s it matter if that s-slutty model isn’t h-here.”

“Y-Yeah, it doesn’t really change anything…” Leon found himself saying, knowing that his words were mainly meant for himself.

“Indeed,” Celeste agreed turning toward the elevator.

“W-Wait, you guys—!” Makoto tried to defend himself but it was too late.

Everyone began piling into the elevator that would take them to their fate, none of them listening to the pleas of the unfortunate boy they’d labeled the murderer. Leon lingered for a moment, a sympathetic expression coveting his face. However, he quickly hardened his features and took his place in the elevator.

All the while, he never noticed Kyoko, whom was standing only a few feet away from him, staring at him with a cold gaze.


 

It was unsettling, knowing exactly who was responsible but not being able to act on it. Kyoko had kept her gaze primarily focused on Leon and it was obvious he was hiding something. Or at least to her it was. For the most part, the rest of her classmates seemed obsessively keen on pinning the crime on Makoto, which made the situation all the more unbearable.

“W-Wait! You guys—!” she heard Makoto try to defend himself, only for his pleas to fall upon deaf ears.

Kyoko felt a great deal of pity for him. After all, he lost the person who he trusted most and had to endure being accused of being her killer. And what made it even more tragic…was that she knew that Sayaka had been deceiving him. For how long, she couldn’t say. But that didn’t change the fact that he’d lost his only ally in this horrific place.

Perhaps it was that pity that made her walk over to him and place a hand on his shoulder. Startled, he slowly turned, his eyes widening as he recognized her.

“Are you scared?” she asked him before she could stop herself.

He flinched but tried to put on a brave face as he answered, “N-No, scared isn’t quite right…”

Staring at his apprehensive face, Kyoko could tell he was being honest. However, she could also see the anxiousness in his eyes, the need to find out who was responsible. She only hoped he would be strong enough to face the truth once it was revealed.

In light of that, she took her hand off his shoulder and turned to face him completely. “Makoto…it’s up to you to uncover the mysteries of this case for yourself. If you don’t, you’ll never come to grips with the truth.”

Without another word, she turned and marched toward the elevator. A part of her felt guilty for putting that kind of pressure on him, but she knew it was the right thing to do. If he didn’t confront this matter himself, then he didn’t deserve to know the truth. A harsh notion, but one that she firmly believed.

Stepping onto the elevator, she wasn’t surprised when he followed almost immediately after her, his eyes hardened with determination. The doors to the elevator closed and after only a few seconds it began descending. As they sank into the earth, Kyoko folded her arms and hands gripping her leather jacket tightly, pondering if this would be the last time any of them would be above ground.


 

The clicking of Mukuro’s laced boots echoed down the hall as the soldier absentmindedly let her feet carry her to an unknown location. She almost hadn’t noticed that she was up and walking around. All she could remember was collapsing to the floor of the nurse’s office and weeping uncontrollably, she wasn’t sure how or why she was in the hall or even where she was going.

Her face was reddened, eyes strained and dilated; she almost appeared to be a walking corpse as she stumbled down the hallway.

“I may as well be dead,” she told herself, feeling her despair reach its peak as she recalled her sister’s words.

“As far as I’m concerned, Mukuro Ikusaba is dead!”

Abruptly, she halted and leaned against a nearby wall for support. She tried her best to fight them, but the tears came all the same. A flood of hot moisture spilled down her cheeks and dripped to the floor.

“What am I supposed to do?” she despaired as she wept. “I’m a soldier…I follow orders…without orders to follow…I…I don’t…”

Pushing off the wall in a desperate attempt to deal with her frustration, she continued sobbing as her feet forced her onward, passing through the entryway to the dorms. Steadily advancing, Mukuro gazed at her bandaged wound, gritting her teeth and hanging her head.

“What reason is there for me to exist now? I have no home to go back to…no place left in this world…all I had…was Junko…and she…and she…”

As she walked, her uninjured hand slowly slipped into her blouse and she grasped the handle of her combat knife. However, she stopped herself from drawing it as she lifted her head to see exactly where she had stopped.

It was a door that held the image and name of Sayaka Maizono.

Deep, shallow breaths were sucked into Mukuro’s lungs as she stared at that door, still grasping her knife. She wasn’t sure how long she stood there gaping, unsure if it was even possible for her to enter. Her legs trembled and she felt as if her strength was being drained just by being there.

However, after her breathing finally began to calm itself, she loosed her grip on her combat knife and instead reached for the door knob.


 

“Alright then, first up is the case summary! Class trial…Begin!!”

After Monokuma made this announcement, the bear reclined back in its huge judge’s chair and grinned as the students looked between each other. A thick silence fell upon the group as no one seemed sure of exactly how to proceed.

Standing in her place between the biker and the martial artist, Kyoko carefully examined each and every one of her classmates.

Byakuya and Celeste were overly calm, which didn’t surprise her. Chihiro and Toko were fidgety, but holding up well. Mondo was doing his best to comprehend things. Hina and Sakura were looking around cautiously, uncomfortable with not being seated next to each other. Hiro was surprisingly in control after his outburst earlier. Taka had his eyes closed and was concentrating. Hifumi was half-way between confused and invested. And Makoto was desperately trying to find ways to prove his own innocence.

Finally, she glanced over to Leon and felt herself let out a soft sigh. She had everything she needed to convict him, from evidence of his involvement to the way he would undoubtedly over-react at being accused. He was making it painfully obvious he was hiding something from all of them and she could use that to drive him into a corner.

However, a part of her still didn’t want to take the lead in such things. She’d be painting a target on herself for future cases, if there were any, but she also didn’t trust any of her classmates enough to allow them to solve this mystery on their own.

“So, uh, where do we actually start with this?” Hina bravely asked, the first to speak up after the silence.

Hearing someone else take the initiative, Kyoko decided to let things play out for the time being and hopefully, she wouldn’t need to step in right away. To that end, she folded her arms and let the scene unfold.

Taking precedence, Taka cleared his throat and shouted, “I assert that the one who was murdered…was Sayaka Maizono!!”

A collective groan escaped everyone and only Hiro found himself saying, “Yeah, we know that already…”

“She was found in Makoto’s room,” Byakuya said, trying to steer everyone back on course.

“And what was the murder weapon?” Sakura questioned aloud.

“Obviously it was the knife that we found on the floor of the bathroom! It was covered in Sayaka’s blood!” Taka explained to everyone, knowing that not everyone had actually gone into the room to see for themselves.

Everyone began to ponder about this when suddenly, Leon let out an audible sigh.

“Okay, so we know the murder weapon was a knife, but where does that get us?” He paused as no one seemed to really have an answer. Taking the initiative again, he sent a glare toward his classmate and said, “I mean, we all know Makoto killed her, right?!”

Kyoko’s gloved hands gripped her sleeves at Leon’s abrupt and direct accusation. Even disregarding the evidence she had, for him to make such an accusation at this early stage was beyond foolish. Unfortunately for her, the ensuing confusion and argument that occurred were more than frustrating.

Toko followed up on Leon’s claim and again placed all blame on Makoto, who tried to defend himself but found that neither the bookworm or the ball player were interested in his words. At the same time, even though she was certain that either Byakuya or Celeste were intelligent enough to see there could be more to this, neither of them spoke up.

A fact that perturbed Kyoko to no end.

“So, either they truly don’t have as much sense as I thought, or they’re simply doing as I am and trying to keep from making themselves a target.”

In any case, she knew that regardless of their intelligence or intentions, something needed to be done before the more influential students were completely misled. After all, she couldn’t expect Makoto to defend himself…

“Let’s draw our conclusions after we’ve presented our arguments. Otherwise, what’s the point of the trial?”


 

Sayaka Maizono lay completely still on the floor of the bathroom, her body leaning up against the back wall with blood stains all around. The white of her uniform was tainted with a pink hue and the makeshift bandages wrapped around her torso were soaked almost completely through with her blood.

This was the first time Mukuro had actually seen the body and she wasn’t sure how she should have reacted. She’d entered the dorm room and almost immediately went to the bathroom, barely registering the chaotic state of the sleeping area. But now that she was here, standing over the body of a person she had once considered a classmate, she felt a strange sensation building within her.

It took a moment but Mukuro soon realized that it wasn’t sadness or pain that she felt…but sympathy.

“You and I…we aren’t so different are we?” she said softly as she stared at Sayaka’s pale face. “We’ve both been abandoned…left to die for our sins. Only…mine are much graver than yours.”

Memories of her past flooded her mind, images of the lives she’d destroyed while in Fenrir, visions of her crimes against her classmates long before trapping them here. And finally, her deception that she was now forced to carry out, having to play the role of her sister, the person who abandoned her, until she was either killed or found a way to survive the game.

Not that it mattered anyway.

It was only a matter of time now. She knew Junko would never allow a liability like her to win. Even if she was the last person alive at the end of the game, she was certain that Junko would have her executed anyway. After all, it would bring even more despair for the viewers watching the broadcast if the person who survived until the end was found out to be one of the instigators and killed for it.

Not to mention that Junko wouldn’t allow a failure like her the satisfaction of survival.

“There…was no chance…from the beginning,” she muttered to herself still staring down at Sayaka. “Neither of us had a chance at surviving this…only…I didn’t know it until now…”

Fresh tears began to form in her eyes as she squeezed them shut and clenched her fists.

“I don’t deserved any kind of forgiveness for what we’ve done to you…but at the very least, I have to say that I’m sorry! You didn’t deserve to die like—”

“Uhgh…ughu…uh…”


 

“…that’s definitely something I wouldn’t do. Since I knew exactly how to open the bathroom door, right?” Makoto finished defending himself, having laid out another point that proved his innocence.

“That is…a definite possibility,” Byakuya reluctantly admitted, forcing anyone else who was suspicious of the Lucky Student to concede as well.

Across the room, Kyoko hid a smile as she snuck a glance at Makoto. She may have given him a little push, but that was all he needed to jump in and defend himself from the onslaught of accusations he’d received.

In fact, she had to admit that, despite her initial observation of him, he was far more intelligent than she had originally believed. His own investigation mirrored hers almost perfectly and she only had to step in occasionally, to clear up any doubt whenever one of their classmates tried to counter him.

“Perhaps I was wrong about him,” she mused to herself as everyone was stunned into silence at the realization that Makoto was, indeed, not the killer. “But still, that doesn’t mean that he’ll be able to solve everything.”

With that in mind, she turned her attention back to her fellow classmates…and to Leon in particular.


 

“Shit! Now what the hell do I do?! I can’t blame Makoto anymore! I’ll look too suspicious!”

Leon began to panic as everyone decided against the Lucky Student being the killer. He carefully wiped the sweat from his brow, doing his best not to seem flustered. Lucky for him, he wasn’t the only one frustrated by this turn of events.

“Okay, then who the hell did do it?!” Mondo abruptly shouted, trying to make sense of this new information.

“I’m sorry but I give up! Quit without saving!” Hifumi uselessly replied, making everyone groan.

“Wait…they still have no idea who actually did it, so…I should be in clear…” Leon thought as he breathed a quick sigh of relief.

That is, until Taka had to go and open his mouth, “Well then, why don’t we just vote right now?! Majority rules!”

Before anyone else could refute him, Leon found himself dumbstruck before saying, “Majority rules? Are you sure that’s such a good idea…?”

His words made everyone around him nod in agreement, but Leon himself felt a wave of utter stupidity wash over him.

“Why the hell did I say that?! No one suspects me right now! I should have pushed for the vote!!”

“He’s right! Our necks are on the line here! Someone do something, for serious!” he heard Hiro comment, convincing others that Taka’s stupid suggestion shouldn’t be considered.

And while he did his best to appear calm, on the inside, Leon felt his composure beginning to waver as everyone resolved themselves to continue debating. His mind raced as he tried to think of any other way to keep from being discovered. Fortunately for him, his classmates were no closer to solving the mystery.

“Uh, I have a question.” Hina suddenly chimed in, turning all attention toward her. “How did the killer get into Sayaka’s room in the first place?”

A swell of relief flooded Leon for a moment, knowing that no one would be able to figure that one out. After all, he’d burned the note Sayaka wrote to him when he’d left it in the pocket of the bloody shirt he’d incinerated.

“There’s no way they’ll be able to piece that part together…”


 

Sayaka felt the last thin thread of her life fading into the nothingness. Only blackness could be sensed…all around her…her soul…beginning to fade…into oblivion…her last chance…to live…gone…forev—

Just then, a voice rang in her ears. It was muddled and broken, but she could tell it was close!

“…aren’t so different are we?...both been abandoned…left to die… don’t deserved any kind of forgiveness… I’m sorry!”

“…a…voice…whose…is…it?…h-help…I’m still…”

As the darkness around her threatened to finally consume her whole, Sayaka heard that voice calling out to her. It was soft and sweeter than Makoto’s but it was definitely there…waiting beyond the deep blackness that overwhelmed her, pulling her back to consciousness. A last ray of light had appeared before her, beckoning her back to life.

“…I…I want…to…live…!”

Knowing that this was indeed her very last chance to reach out, Sayaka used every last ounce of her strength to respond. And this time, she found her voice…


 

“Uhgh…ughu…uh…”

Mukuro completely froze as those soft groans escaped from the seemingly lifeless body of Sayaka. Her breath hitched in her throat and the soldier thought for a moment that she had to be imagining things…

“Urgh…ah…”

Again! Again there was noise coming from Sayaka’s cold lips! Instantly falling to her knees beside the mostly-dead girl, Mukuro placed two fingers on the idol’s throat and remained still as she found the vein she was searching for.

…Thump-thump………………………………………………………………….Thump-thump…

A shaky breath was sucked into Mukuro’s lungs as she heard the incredibly weak heartbeat of Sayaka Maizono!

“She…she’s…she’s…SHE’S ALIVE! SAYAKA IS ALIVE!!!”

Mukuro could hardly believe it. Sayaka was weak and fading, certainly, but she was still alive after bleeding out for so long. How was that even possible? It had been several hours since the wound was inflicted. There was no way someone could survive for that long after losing several pints of blood. Unless…

The soldier’s eyes drifted down to see the bloodied strips of towel wrapped around Sayaka’s midsection. And although it certainly was a sloppy job, the towel had been effective in stopping the bleeding at least. The amount of blood loss may have been extensive but if she was able to make noises, then there was still a chance!

“If I hurry, then I can still—!” Mukuro almost shouted to herself before strangely falling silent.

Looking down at the helpless girl, whose life was fading even at that very moment, dangerous thoughts coursed through Mukuro’s mind.

“If Sayaka is alive, then Junko’s plans are ruined…at least for the time being. She’ll be more furious than ever and take it out on…well, all of us! But if Sayaka doesn’t survive…”

Unconsciously, Mukuro found her good hand slipping inside her blouse and grasping the handle of her combat knife.

“And if I’m the one to do it…will Junko…love me again?”

She could see it now. Junko welcoming her back with open arms, congratulating her for keeping the game going and not letting one little slip up ruin her plan. She’d be acknowledged by her sister and even praised for being useful. Just thinking about it made Mukuro…made her feel…feel as if…as if her heart were being cut out…

A single tear slid down Mukuro’s cheek as she gently whispered, “It’ll…never happen…Junko…she would…never…”

She knew that Junko would never praise her. In fact, she’d probably brand her sister a blackened and execute her for finishing off Sayaka. It was stupid of her to even think that just because she kept Junko’s plans from being ruined that she would be forgiven. That was not how Junko worked.

Taking her hand off the knife, Mukuro now found herself with another dilemma.

“I really don’t owe Sayaka anything. And even if I managed to save her, it would only incur my sister’s wrath. Perhaps I’m better off just letting Sayaka…slip away—”

In the midst of her thoughts, she abruptly shook her head and slapped her cheek.

She had just been thinking about how unfair it was that both of them had been abandoned. And now, she was considering letting Sayaka feel the same hurt and anguish she’d been battling ever since Junko had cut her loose!

Furious at herself, she clenched her fists but felt a sharp pain from her right hand. Wincing, she lifted her hand up and almost gasped as she looked at the bandage.

Even if the wrappings were printed with Monokuma’s image, she could still feel the tenderness of Makoto’s hands as he’d gently wrapped her bandages, careful not to pull too tight and injure her further. This, of course, conjured Makoto’s face in her mind…and she felt more ashamed than ever for what she’d considered doing to Sayaka.

“Makoto…he never abandoned us. Even now, he’s fighting…trying to keep as many of us alive as he can.”

Her voice was low, barely a whisper but she clutched her bandaged appendage close to her chest.

Her heart had nearly broken when she’d seen Makoto’s pain-stricken face when he had been forced to accept Sayaka’s apparent death. And she could never forget the bravery he’d shown when he pulled her away from the spear trap, extending her now shortened life. He threw himself into harm’s way for his friends, something she had never done before.

And, if for no other reason than to repay her debt to him, Mukuro came to a decision.

“At the very least, I owe Makoto for prolonging my life. And if I can save Sayaka…And save him from this pain…then I’ll endure any punishment my sister can conjure!”

Taking in a deep breath, Mukuro steeled her resolve and bent down low, scooping up the unconscious Sayaka in her arms. Adjusting her weight and making sure that the pop idol wasn’t still bleeding, she quickly but carefully made her way out of the bathroom, into the living area and outside into the hallway.

Not wasting a single moment, Mukuro sped off toward the nurse’s office with Sayaka in tow.


 

“How the hell did this happen?!” Leon frantically thought as his classmates deduced that whomever Sayaka invited over, and tried to kill, was the culprit.

He’d been confident that without the note, there wouldn’t be any way to tell that Sayaka invited him over! But then, Kyoko had to pull some NCIS bullshit and magically replicate the note he’d received! On top of that, Makoto flawlessly pieced together what must have happened during the fight between him and Sayaka, making it even harder to defend himself if he was found out!!

Forcing himself to take a deep breath, to calm his frazzled nerves, Leon reassured himself there was nothing to fear.

“I-It’ll be fine. I mean, that’s it, right? There isn’t anything else.”

As if on cue, everyone began having the same reaction. No one seemed to be able to think of anything that might lead to the discovery of the culprit. Not to mention that some of them, mainly Makoto, were still reeling from the fact that they’d uncovered Sayaka’s true involvement.

Even Kyoko seemed stumped at this point, as she turned to her classmates and said, “If we can’t uncover who murdered Sayaka, then it’s over for all of us…”

A hollow silence filled the room as the threat of death loomed over them all…well, except for Leon that is.

Lucky for him that there was no evidence left for them to present, given that he’d destroyed it all. Sure, they may have found out about the hair being removed but there was no way they’d be able to figure out how he’d burned his shirt. Which meant that, there was nothing left for them to—

“Wait!! That’s it!! If I insist on how hopeless this is and urge us to just piece together what we have, then none of them will have any suspicion for me at all! And since they can’t trace it back to me…I’m in the clear!”

Folding his arms, Leon faked frustration as he said, “It’s easy to say, ‘Just decide who did it,’ but it’s not that simple. I mean, there are absolutely no clues left, right—?”

That’s it. He was in the clear now. There was absolutely nothing left for anyone, even Kyoko, to—

“No, that’s wrong…”

Leon’s body froze as Makoto’s accusatory words broke through the silence. The baseball star slowly turned to see the lucky student, renewed fervor burning in his hazel eyes, staring forward with more conviction than ever.

“We’re all forgetting about one thing,” Makoto said before anyone could refute him, “…Sayaka’s dying message.”

Unable to stop himself, Leon let out a light gasp as his mind began to retreat back into panic.


 

Sayaka felt herself being carried, to where, she couldn’t even guess. The idol felt her head resting on something soft, her arms folded over her chest as whoever was carrying her had their hands under her back and legs, hold the injured girl close to their chest. And despite the warmth she felt from her savior, there was agony as well.

Pain…immense pain ripped through her body…such agony had never been experienced by her before…not even when she’d been sliced open…however…it brought an overwhelming sense of calm with it…it was like nothing she’d ever expected…

She was no longer being consumed by the darkness around her, her mind freed from the nothingness that had been seeping in. She would endure any suffering if it meant that horrifying darkness was kept at bay. For even as crippling as that pain was, it was preferable to slipping away into the void.

And even though she was too weak for her to open her eyes, she knew that…somehow…she had come back to the land of the living. It was then that she heard that voice again; that soft yet stern voice that had beckoned her back from the dark.

Only this time, it was clear as day:

“You know…I used to hate you. Both on and off the stage, people loved you. They loved you as a performer and as a person. I…I was jealous of that.”

Unable to respond in the least, Sayaka continued to listen intently, taking in each and every word the voice spoke to her.

“And even though I could see through your fake smile, see that you must have had difficulties too…I still resented the fact that you were loved, truly and absolutely. By everyone…by him.”

Strangely, the voice was very apologetic. As if the person speaking had committed a grave sin against her.

“But I was wrong. I hated you for something that you worked hard for, something that you didn’t take for granted and actively tried to keep. Now I realize that I was jealous of your strength more than anything else.”

Sayaka couldn’t fathom why her savior was saying such things. After all, she wasn’t strong at all. She had tried to frame Makoto, tried to kill the naively innocent Leon, and her actions would no doubt inspire others to try and murder their way out as well.

“I’m weak…and pathetic. I don’t…deserve…”

Before her thoughts darkened any further, that soft voice broke through and enveloped her again.

“And because of that, I never gave a thought to how much you…how much everyone here must be suffering. I only thought of myself and in the end…”

The voice fell silent for a moment and Sayaka feared that she may never hear it again when it abruptly came back.

“In the end, that’s why I have to save you. Even if it’s only this one time, I have to do something…anything it takes to make this right. I swear…if we both survive this, I’m going to apologize to you properly…so you can’t die until then!”

As those words seeped into Sayaka’s semi-conscious mind, she was suddenly overwhelmed with emotions. Someone actually cared for her, even though she was an attempted murderer, even though she had done many horrible things to others in her past. At the very least, the person who this voice belonged to…wanted her to live.

And for the first time since she’d been thrust into this horrific situation, she felt sincere gratitude as her will to live was completely restored.

“…Thank…you…”


 

Mukuro had no idea if Sayaka could hear her, or even why she was saying these things. But as she moved closer and closer to her destination, she felt that she needed to say something. Her words were pure and honest, even though she wasn’t sure what brought them on. All she knew was that they needed to be said.

Sayaka needed to hear them, just in case she wasn’t able to save her. The soldier knew that this was her only chance to convey those words that had been suppressed for so long.

Sayaka’s head lay against her bosom, providing the much needed comfort this fading girl required. Blood from the idol’s abdomen wound stained her blouse and skirt but Mukuro didn’t care in the least. After all, it wasn’t the first time she’d been drenched in blood…but it was the first time she’d done so to save a life.

And even though she had doubts as to if she could revive her severally injured classmate, she knew that this was her purpose now. It was the first time she’d given herself a mission and with a clear goal in mind, she found herself able to push away all the distracting thoughts of the trial and Junko, focusing solely on keeping Sayaka alive.

Looking down at Sayaka’s pale face, Mukuro barely noticed the tiniest of tears trickling down the idol’s cheek.

It may have been from the pain of being moved. That’s what the logical part of her mind told her. But instead, Mukuro chose to believe that, on some level, her words had reached Sayaka’s soul…and she knew that she was going to be saved.

Feeling the adrenaline beginning to pump through her veins, Mukuro lifted her head up as she turned the corner, the nurse’s office finally coming into view.

Readjusting her injured classmate, Mukuro hardened her features in determination and said, “Hold on, Sayaka! We’re almost there!”


 

“Sure, I think we can all agree that Sayaka wrote the message, but still…what the heck do those numbers mean? 11037?”

Hina’s question was the same as everyone else’s in the group. Well, almost everyone’s.

Kyoko stood in her place, a hand on her chin, watching as her classmates tried to decipher the numbers. Naturally, Chihiro was asked about them but the programmer didn’t have a clue as to what the sequence of numbers could correspond to. Because of that, all speculation went out the window and none of her classmates could fathom what it could mean.

At the same time, Kyoko found herself eerily quiet. Once again, she feared making herself into a target and wanted to keep her discoveries to herself, hoping someone else would be able to reach the same conclusion as herself.

In fact, she had half expected Makoto to figure it out by now, considering he was doing so well at unmasking all of the crucial elements to this case. However, to her disappointment, she found that he was becoming just as stumped as everyone else. But unlike everyone else, she could see that he was still actively trying to solve the mystery of the number.

She could see it in his eyes, those hazel irises that continued to question everything and seek out the truth, no matter the cost. And it was because she respected that relentless tenacity that she finally decided to give him a little push.

“…Let’s look at the numbers assuming they’re not numbers.”

The instant those words left her mouth, she saw Makoto’s eyes light up as he finally realized there was another way to interpret them. However, he wasn’t the only one. Hifumi also jumped in and pointed out that the first two letters, 11, looked off. From there, Chihiro noticed a tiny connecting line between the two numbers.

And thus, the letter “N” became visible for all to see.

However, the high everyone got from this discovery was immediately halted when Sakura spoke up, “But even if it really is an ‘N’…N037 doesn’t make any more sense than before…”

With that, Kyoko knew that her classmates were close to uncovering the truth for themselves but unfortunately, they were still falling short. The answer was literally right in front of them but none of them could see it. Makoto’s eyes dampened a bit as even he couldn’t see the meaning of this new discover.

Not even the killer could clearly see it yet. But then again, she knew why.

He’d never gone back into the bathroom to see Sayaka’s body, so he missed the message entirely. Naturally, he was utterly shocked at all of this and as such, Leon had remained utterly silent throughout this entire affair. It was the clearest giveaway Kyoko had ever seen.

She had pieced it together before she’d even gotten into the elevator. She knew Leon was the culprit from the start but for some reason…she’d kept herself from coming right out and explaining it all at the beginning. And sadly, it wasn’t just about not wanting to become a target for other students.

It was something deeper than self preservation. It was a notion that she didn’t want to admit needed to be done but knew that it was going to have to happen for herself and her classmates to survive…

“The moment I say this…I will become Leon’s killer.”

Even though the rational part of her mind kept insisting that notion was foolish, she couldn’t fight that feeling. More than anything else, that notion was the reason she’d kept quiet all this time. She didn’t want to face the responsibility…the guilt that because of her investigation…a classmate was going to be condemned to death.

And while it may be true that he committed a heinous and unforgivable crime, that didn’t mean it was right of her to sentence him to such a horrifying fate. To her, taking another’s life was not something that should be forgiven…which is why she hesitated to take Leon’s at this very moment.

She would never forgive herself for being the instrument of his demise.

Looking across the way, she could see that Leon was already in the throes of panic and despair. Whether because he regretted his actions or was just terrified of being discovered, she couldn’t say.

In any case, it didn’t change the fact that if she didn’t do something here and now…she and everyone except Leon would perish. She was working so hard to keep everyone alive but she was outwitted at every turn.

Then again, it was the nature of this game. Monokuma wanted all of them to feel the darkest of despair and what better way than making them turn on the ideals that they hold so dear?

Kyoko cursed whomever was controlling that bear with every fiber of her being as she was forced to concede and give Monokuma exactly what he wanted. Burying her conflicting emotions deep down beneath her cold exterior, Kyoko felt a little bit of herself dying as she finally opened her mouth and said:

“…Rotate the image 180 degrees…”


 

Leon wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but something about the way Kyoko had spoken sent a chill down his spine. Compelled to do as she asked, the baseball player flipped his electro ID over and blanched as he saw what was written there.

L-E-O-N

His feet suddenly felt ice cold and his eyes dilated as he realized his fate was sealed.

Before he had a chance to say anything, Makoto audibly gasped and shouted, “Oh my God! I see it now! If you invert the numbers they become the letters L, E, O, N! Or more accurately…Leon!!”

As one, all of the students surrounding him turned and stared, some with accusatory glares and others with shocked questioning glances. Under their harsh gazes, the baseball star felt that hollow pressure in his chest return as his wrongdoings were made apparent to all present.

“No…No way…NO FUCKING WAY!!!”


 

“Okay…There!”

Mukuro finally finished setting up the IV stand with a fresh pack of blood. It was fortunate that there were blood packs in the fridge, considering she hadn’t checked if there were any. She’d half expected Junko to remove all of the packets, in case something like this happened but it seemed that her sister either didn’t believe it would happen or she thought the students might use the blood for…other purposes.

Not only that, she had been worried that she wouldn’t know what type of blood Sayaka was. However, she remembered the electro ID had all of their information saved on it and thankfully, everyone’s blood type was listed in their profile.

Mukuro almost couldn’t believe her luck in all of this and wondered if possibly Makoto’s influence was rubbing off on her. But she didn’t have time to think about that now!

Turning around she saw Sayaka lying in the bed she’d set her on. Her pink wig was tied back using a hair mask, to make sure it didn’t get in the way. She considered taking the wig off all together but figured that, on the off chance Sayaka happened to wake up, it was crucial that it be in place.

Making sure the sterile gloves on her hand were secure, she reached a hand out but stopped just before she grasped her classmate’s right wrist. Seeing it swollen and more than likely broken, she decided to use the idol’s left wrist instead and began searching for a vein. It took a moment but she soon found the vein in questioned and took a deep breath.

“Sayaka…This is gonna hurt but just bear with it!”

Holding the IV needle tightly in her hand Mukuro furrowed her brows and pierced the needle directly into the vein. Sayaka very lightly grunted and slightly twitched but otherwise remained motionless.

Taping the IV tube to her hand, Mukuro looked back at the blood packet. A relived smile broke out on her face as she saw the blood begin to drip into the IV, flowing down the tube and directly into Sayaka’s body.

“Well…that wasn’t so hard,” Mukuro said as she wiped the sweat from her brow. “Now, here comes the tricky part.”

Mukuro knew she needed to redress Sayaka’s stomach wound, or else it would get infected and all of her efforts would be for nothing. However, since she had never actually sustained an injury in battle before, she didn’t really know the proper way to clean and dress a wound. Sure, she’d gotten a few scrapes and bruises before but never anything that required medical attention. As such, her experience here was practically nonexistent.

“Then again, I’ve only watched others do a blood transfusion and I managed that well enough,” she encouraged herself, “And if I just remember what my comrades taught me in case I get injured…”

Picking up a pair of medical scissors, the soldier carefully began to cut away the cloth of both Sayaka’s shirt and the towel strips on her abdomen. Once she was certain she could remove it all, she began to slowly pull the material off Sayaka’s body. As she lifted the bloodied cloth away and tossed it aside, Mukuro breath hitched for a moment as she saw the injury.

From just below Sayaka’s right breast to just above her waistline, a long jagged slice of flesh was visible. However, Mukuro was able to breathe a sigh of relief, noticing that the wound itself was not as deep or fatal as it appeared. But unfortunately, since the towel strips had been stuck to her body for so long, removing them actually caused the wound to begin bleeding once more.

However, Mukuro was prepared for this and immediately applied a large gauze to the open wound. The medical patch soon began to become soaked all the way through with the pink hue of blood. Expecting this, the soldier quickly applied another gauze to the area before grabbing medical tape from the table beside her.

As quickly and effectively as she could, Mukuro began taping down the sides of the gauze, blood from the open wound staining her gloves.

“This should…help keep…pressure on it…” she reasoned as she finished taping, putting the tape back down and reaching for a towel.

Wiping her gloved hands on it to remove as much blood residue as she could, she then reached over for the last and most crucial item needed for the dressing. Her hand wrapped around the roll of bandages and she pulled a long strip of them out to prepare to use. She almost cringed as she saw the image of Monokuma on the bandages but beggars can’t be choosers in this situation.

Leaning over Sayaka, Mukuro began wrapping the bandages tightly around the idol’s abdomen. It was initially difficult to get her hands underneath her body to fully wrap the bandage but after a few wrappings, she found a rhythm and pattern that allowed her to slip one hand under, grab the roll and pull it all the way out the other side without causing much trouble.

Sayaka grunted and writhed a bit as each bandage was tightened but the sounds were more of a relief to hear than a detractor. Considering she was thought to be dead, any noise that Sayaka made right now was an improvement!

A few times while wrapping the bandages, a sharp jolt of pain shot through Mukuro’s injured hand but each time she forced it away and continued. It was fortunate that she still had as much dexterity with her fingers as she did, considering how fresh the hole in her palm was. Even so, regardless of how stiff she thought her fingers were, she was finally able to finish wrapping the bandages tightly around Sayaka’s midsection.

Pulling them tightly, earning another groan from Sayaka, the soldier tied the bandages firmly and took a step back. The IV was flowing steadily and the white cloth around the idol’s abdomen showed no sign of continued bleeding. And, maybe it was her imagination, but it seemed as though Sayaka’s breathing was returning to normal as well, seeing the light rise and fall of her chest.

Confident that her job was complete Mukuro pulled the sheets over Sayaka’s body to keep her warm, leaving only the arm with the IV lying atop the sheets.

The instant that task was done, the soldier felt her strength begin to waver and she stumbled over to the nearby wall. Easing herself down to sit on the floor and placing her back against the wall, she stared upwards at the ceiling. Her exhausted breaths were the only sound she could hear at the moment as she felt her consciousness slipping into tired rest.

Closing her eyes, she whispered, “With this…Junko’s plan is ruined. Now that Sayaka is alive…there isn’t a…blackened for the…first trial…and there won’t…be a need to…execute—”.

Suddenly her eyes shot open and an audible gasp escaped her lips as realization came crashing down.

“Oh shit! The trial!!!”


 

“…Isn’t that right, LEON?!”

Makoto’s stern and absolute conviction tore through Leon’s mind like a hurricane, destroying any and all hope that he may be spared. He’d been found out, plain and simple. He’d never seen the dying message and didn’t think anyone would figure out he used the incinerator from behind the gate. And never in a million years did he think that Makoto of all people would be the one to convict him.

And now…he was going to die…just like Sayaka…

“No…This can’t be happening…How did it come to this?...It’s all so stupid…stupid…stupid, stupid, stupid!!”


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

 

Mukuro tore out of the nurse’s office like a bat out of hell, almost slamming into the adjacent wall as she sped toward the red doors leading to the courtroom.

The hairnet that had kept her wig from getting dirtied had been discarded, as were the blood-stained gloves she’d used while treating Sayaka. She had to be certain that once she was seen by the others again, no one would know she wasn’t Junko. After all, she didn’t want to get executed for giving away her secret, especially not after finding the resolve to save her classmates.

However, that was the smallest of her concerns as the eerie red doors finally came into view.

“I can’t let it happen! It won’t matter that I saved Sayaka if her attempted murderer still gets executed! It’ll change the rules! And if the rules change—!!”

She shook her head as her mind considered the consequences before she managed to force them away. Regaining her focus, she kicked open the red double doors and proceeded inside.


 

“Show us your toolkit, Leon.” Makoto reasoned, his gaze firm. “If I’m right about this, your toolkit will show some evidence of being used.”

“Stupid, stupid, stu—Wha?”

Leon’s mind finally clicked back on after his meaningless barrage of misplaced insults.

“And if you say you used it for something else, you’ll need to explain exactly where, when and why,” Byakuya immediately followed up, driving him further into a corner.

“I…I…uh…” the baseball player stammered, his mind unable to keep up with how fast he’d been outmaneuvered.  

“And let me say this right now,” Kyoko spoke up, making him turn to her in utter terror. “Telling us, ‘I lost it’, is not a valid excuse.”

As her words echoed in his ears, Leon felt as though his strength was sapped away, lowering his head and muttering, “Stu…pid…Stu……pid?”

And with that, the first class trial came to a close as the student’s minds were set upon whom to punish.


 

“Make extra sure you vote for someone. You wouldn’t want to be punished for something as silly as that, would you?” Monokuma cheekily instructed everyone as they cast their votes.

Kyoko clenched her jaw and seethed, sending an accusatory glare toward the bear atop the throne. The Mastermind was forcing everyone to bear the responsibility of taking their fellow student’s life, even if most of them didn’t see it that way or even realize it. The bear was clawing its way into their minds with this tactic, doing as was promised in creating despair.

Nevertheless, the amnesiac girl knew there was no choice in the matter and pulled the lever as well, a small part of her writhing as she had once again given in to save her own life.

“Forgive me…Leon.”


 

In all honestly, the baseball player knew it was over the moment Makoto had accused him, but he just couldn’t accept it…he couldn’t accept his own death without even trying to fight back!

But that didn’t matter anymore and a cold chill ran down his spine as he lifted his head to see the other’s already voting. Barely managing to overhear Monokuma’s threat about not voting, the broken young man looked to the lever in front of him. Without a second through, his hand reached out and he voted…for the person that had put him in this situation.

“This…isn’t my fault. It’s Sayaka’s!” He practically seethed as he pulled the lever. “That’s right! She’s the one who attacked me! If anything, I’m the victim! Why should I have to die because of her?!”

It was a last act of defiance against a fate he couldn’t fight. So, with a weary gaze, he lifted his head to watch the slot-machine that held everyone’s faces spin…before the reels landed purposefully on his image.


 

“Come on, dammit!!”

Mukuro’s furious pounding on the elevator button continued to receive no response, despite numerous attempts to force it to work. She gritted her teeth as she realized that Junko probably locked down the elevator to ensure that none of the students, blackened or spotless, could use it as a form of escape.

“I don’t have time for this!”

Without hesitation, Mukuro’s hand slipped into her blouse and she withdrew her combat knife from its holster. Moving to the center of the two metal elevator doors, she angled her blade and thrust it forward. Her aim was perfect, as usual, and she managed to get the tip of the blade between the tiny crack between the doors.

Placing her other hand on the back of the one holding the knife, she slowly pushed the blade forward while jiggling it further between the doors. Slowly but surely, the entirety of her knife was able to slip between the metal. With a swift yet powerful jerk, Mukuro managed to barely pry the two doors apart.

Seizing that opportunity, her fingers instantly found their way to both sides of the metal doors. At first, she could barely get the metal to budge, even though she was using all of her strength to try and pull them apart. When she could only just get her palm through the crack between the metal was she able to use her weight and slowly pull the doors apart.

“Come…on…just…a…little…more!!” she groaned as she almost pulled the doors apart wide enough for her to fit through.

With a final grunt and fierce tug, she widened the passage between the metal doors so that her entire body could easily get to the other side. Fortunately for her, the metal doors were not using any kind of spring system to hold them shut, and she was able to momentarily catch her breath, knowing that they weren’t going to close on her.

Sliding her knife back into its holster under her blouse, she felt her injured hand ache from the pressure she’d just applied getting those damn doors open. But she knew it was nothing compared to what awaited her next. Poking her head through the gap she’d made, she looked at the thick elevator cord that was her only means of descending below.

Slowly, her eyes drifted down to her bandaged appendage and she groaned as she saw blood already beginning to seep through the wrappings.

“I’m running out of time…” she had to remind herself, knowing that more than just her life hung in the balance.

Sayaka, Leon and Herself.

Their fates were now tied together, whether they knew it or not. And somehow, Mukuro knew that if her sister succeeded and, now wrongfully, executed the baseball player, it would spell the end for her and the pop idol as well. Junko would find a way to have them eliminated…to protect her precious rules.

With that reaffirmation, Mukuro lifted her gaze up and her sky blue irises focused intently on the elevator cord. She felt sharp pain in her hand as she knew there was only one option open to her.

She briefly considered dashing back to the nurse’s office to find something to wrap her hands in, to make it easier to slide down the cord. However, there was no time left and there was no turning back.

Taking a deep breath to compose herself, Mukuro narrowed her gaze before speeding forward, leaping into the elevator shaft and grasping the thick cord.


 

“That’s right! The blackened in this case, the one who killed Sayaka…was none other than Leon Kuwata!!”

Hearing his own name and the crime he’d committed spoken together made Leon lift his head, tearing his eyes away from the reels that showed him as the guilty party. Everyone was staring at him; some with anger, others with contempt, and a select few showed sympathy.

Among the sympathetic ones was none other than Makoto, who despite being the driving force behind his sentencing, seemed almost as shocked as he was.

“Leon…is it really true?” the lucky student asked hesitantly, showing that even he didn’t wish to believe the baseball player had committed such an atrocity.

There was great pain in Makoto’s eyes, both for having lost a friend and for having sentenced another to death. And it was that horrified and agonizing look that stopped any words of dissuasion that Leon may have had for him. There was nothing he could say to defend himself at this point…so he hung his head and kept quiet.

Taking his silence as a form of admittance, an uproar of confusion and anger enveloped the room.

“I don’t believe it…” Hina quietly said, the truth suppressing even her optimism.

“You son of a bitch!!” Mondo abruptly cut in, grabbing his pedestal as he leaned forward to shout, “What the hell is wrong with you?! Killing a girl like that?!”

The sudden accusation seeped into Leon’s mind and one last time, he felt the will to defy his fate.

Snapping his head up, he returned Mondo’s fierce gaze and fired back, “I-I didn’t have a choice! She came at me with the knife first! I never meant to kill her!”

His comments were met with suspicious gazes and even a scoff from both Byakuya and Celeste. Seeing and hearing their outright disbelief, something inside Leon snapped and he furiously pointed at everyone.

“None of you are any different!! One wrong move and it would have been one of you standing here! Not me!! It was complete chance that I wound up like this!!”

As he finished screaming, all resentment and fury seemed to pour out of him until he was left with nothing but a sickening realization. He was still making excuses…for taking Sayaka’s future from her. Even now, when he’d already been caught, he just couldn’t believe that it all was real…

“I was just…unlucky…that’s all.”

Those were his final words of protest as he once again hung his head and fell to his knees. Unwanted tears formed in the corners of his eyes, dripping to the floor as his sins were laid bare and the weight of his choices began to crush his spirit.

If he could take it all back…go back to last night and do anything different…it didn’t matter anymore. There was absolutely nothing he could say or do that would ever make up for his crime. Even so…

“Alrighty then! I’d say it’s time for some good old-fashioned punishment!!”

Monokuma’s ominous words snapped Leon back to reality and he almost leapt up to his feet in panic.

“P-Punishment?! Y-You mean…execution?!” he stammered, not yet ready to face his own demise. “W-Wait a second!!”

A maliciously gleeful grin broke out on Monokuma’s face as it calmly answered, “There will be no waiting—”

“But I didn’t have a choice! It was an accident! I never meant to kill her! I was trying to get the knife away from her but—”.

“Do you really believe we are that naïve?” Celeste abruptly cut in, earning a perplexed stare from Leon. “When you forced your way into the bathroom, did you or did you not use your very own toolkit?”

“W-Well, yeah but that was because I thought Sayaka was going to—”

“You went out of your way to go back to your own room, get your toolkit, return to the scene and force the door open...just to get to her. Am I wrong?”

“N-No, but that’s not the reason I—”

“You had a number of chances to stop what you were doing…but you chose not to.”

The gambler’s words were laced with venom, despite how calm and collected her tone was. At first Leon almost couldn’t believe she was being so hostile, considering she didn’t seem all that flustered by the trial in the first place. But he soon realized that Celeste was not only skeptical…she was outright accusing him of premeditative murder!

Before he could try and defend himself, she beat him to it again by finishing, “Is it not because you had an unclouded intent to commit murder in order to escape from this place?”

“No! That’s not…”

Leon was losing his will to protest, mainly because he knew how horrific his position seemed. He wanted to tell them he tried to save her…tell them how he was only trying to get the knife away from her so she couldn’t hurt herself. But no matter what he said, there was no way anyone would—

“Stop it!”

Leon’s eyes widened as he heard someone defend him. But even more than that, he was surprised at who it was. Turning his head, he stared directly at Makoto as the lucky student continued.

“I’ve had enough of this…just stop it Celeste.”

Utter confusion warped Leon’s features as he watched Makoto of all people coming to his defense. It was beyond Leon’s comprehension as to why he would do such a thing. He’d fought so hard to prove the ballplayer was the killer but now…he seemed to almost regret that decision.

“Oh? Are you sure?” Celeste answered in shock, as surprised as anyone by Makoto’s actions. “He killed your precious Sayaka after all. Are you saying you forgive him for that?”

At this, Makoto slightly lowered his gaze and Leon knew what was coming next. There was absolutely no way that the lucky student could forgive such a horrific thing. Hell, the baseball star couldn’t even forgive himself! How could he possibly expect Makoto to—?

“He’s not solely to blame for this…and I can’t blame Sayaka for it either. Instead, I know exactly who is responsible…”

With no hesitation, Makoto pointed an accusatory finger at Monokuma, who reeled back as if in shock at being blamed.

“You’re to blame for all this! Not Leon or Sayaka! You did this to them…to all of us! It’s all your fault!”

Everyone, especially Leon, couldn’t believe the words that came from Makoto’s lips. Mainly because, he was absolutely right! All of this was happening because the bear had put them into this situation. If the Mastermind hadn’t forced them to play this killing game, none of them would be turning on each other or trying to kill one another.

Hearing that somehow made a feeling of relief momentary flow through Leon’s mind.

“Makoto…he doesn’t blame me? He should…he really should…but he doesn’t. How the hell can he do that?”

In the midst of Leon’s thoughts, another person stepped up to surprise everyone.

“I agree, especially because it seems that we’ve all forgotten something very important about this case,” Kyoko suddenly spoke up after remaining silent for so long, surprising everyone into silence. She turned to Leon and asked, “You said it was an accident. Would you care to elaborate?”

“Huh?” was all that Leon could manage; barely comprehending that someone was letting him speak. “W-Well, it was an accident! When I…defended myself against her and she ran into the bathroom, Sayaka took the knife with her. The reason I forced my way into the bathroom was because I heard her mumbling about killing herself!”

Instead of his words causing shock, everyone looked to him with suspicion instead, making him feel even more foolish for having said anything.

“You can’t honestly expect us to believe that, now can you?” Byakuya mockingly insisted, “Trying to garner sympathy after the vote’s been cast is pointless. You should simply accept your fate.”

“Indeed,” Sakura surprisingly agreed with him. “You should have enough pride not to make up excuses by this point.”

Leon could hardly believe they were being so skeptical. What point was there in him lying now? The die was cast and he had nothing to left to lose! Why were they being so unforgiving?!

“But it’s the truth! All I was trying to do was get the knife away from her! But she held onto it too tight and when I pried it from her hand…I…I accidentally cut her,” he insisted, holding back the pain that memory alone caused him.

“Yeah right, dude. Don’t make this harder to understand than it already is,” Mondo condemned him, turning away as if not paying attention. “You should own up to your mistakes, like a real man.”

“Y-Yeah! Next y-you’ll be s-saying that it was you t-that tried to bandage S-Sayaka!” Toko joined in, following the crowd as usual.

Anger abundantly rose in Leon as those words were thrown at him and he furiously shouted back, “But that was what I did! I used the towel to try and stop the bleeding! I even checked her pulse when she stopped breathing!!”

“S-See! Making m-more excuses!” the writing prodigy accused, glaring harshly at the disbelieved ballplayer. “Y-You should j-just die already!”

Gritting his teeth, Leon hung his head again. He knew how hopeless it was to even try and explain himself. It seemed far too perfect to be coincidence and at this rate, he was going to be forever branded as a malicious murderer!

It was then that, once more, Kyoko decided to intervene.

“I don’t think these are excuses at all. In fact, I’m more inclined to believe them to be the truth.”

Hearing that made everyone turn to her in an instant. Most of them were shocked into silence but Makoto wasn’t one of them.

“Why do you say that?” he genuinely questioned, very eager to hear this.

“I don’t think that Sayaka would have been able to wrap those bandages around herself,” she said plainly, giving no room for doubt. “For starters, she wouldn’t have the strength to cut tiny strips out of that towel; she’d have lost too much blood by that point. And given the fact that they were all tied behind her back, it seems even less likely she would have been able to do so, given that she was pressed against the back wall—”.

“But it’s still possible that she could have done it herself,” Byakuya interrupted, glaring at her menacingly; “She could have easily done it before succumbing to her wounds.”

At this, Kyoko unexpectedly gave a short and mocking laugh before countering, “Perhaps, but tell me, how would she be able to do all that…with a broken wrist?”

Realization came crashing down on everyone as a heavy silence engulfed the courtroom. All the while, Leon couldn’t help the perplexed stare he was giving Kyoko as she too fell silent.

“W-What’s going on? Why is she…defending me?” he questioned, unsure of why anyone would even bother to come to his aid after learning of his crime. “I mean, there’s no way she’d be feeling guilty…right?”

As that thought occurred to him, Leon slowly began to look around at his fellow classmates.

A dissatisfied grunt escaped Byakuya as he was forced to remain silent. Chihiro almost broke out into tears as she heard this revelation, burying her face in her hands. Mondo continued to look away in shame. Celeste, although a bit miffed, seemed to have an almost apologetic look in her eyes. Taka was doing his best to seem unaffected but the tears in the corners of his eyes said otherwise. Hifumi hung his head low, doing his best to keep out of this situation. Sakura and Hina were ashamed of themselves and stared at the ground. Hiro, whom had been mostly quiet, nervously looked away, also trying to seem unaffected by this news.

Finally, Toko let a mortified expression overtake her face as she softly said, “So…he r-really didn’t mean to kill her after all! And y-yet…we…”

As if a floodgate had been opened, Leon finally understood the reason for his classmates’ actions and why they had been so unforgiving.

They had all voted for him, chose their own lives instead of his own, and whether they admitted to it or not, it was hurting them. They knew they sentenced their classmate to die for something that wasn’t truly his fault, and their harsh attitudes had been a way to alleviate themselves of that burden. But to no avail it seemed.

“Is it true, Leon?” Makoto abruptly asked, breaking the silence at last. “Did you really try to…save Sayaka?”

Looking over to him, Leon never imagined it would be so hard just to say, “Y-Yeah…it’s true.”

He half expected Makoto to get that look of shame himself, the same as everyone else. Instead, he was treated to a relieved sigh from his classmate.

“…Thank you…for trying.”

Those words penetrated deep into Leon’s mind and for a moment, he felt his legs go weak. Fresh tears spilled from his eyes as he knew that at the very least…Makoto no longer blamed him for what happened.

A heavy silence filled the room for quite some time following those words, as no one had anything left to say.

When no one said anything, Leon finally felt as if he’d won something. It was an incredibly small victory but at this point, he was willing to take it! This proved that he wasn’t a homicidal killer and that there should be leniency shown because he tried to save—

“Yeah, yeah, whatever! That doesn’t change the fact that Leon is the blackened and he killed Sayaka! Let’s hurry up and send him to his punishment!”

Monokuma’s high voice cut through any shred of hope that Leon may have had, panic and fear once again gripping him.

“But…but it was an accident! You can’t execute me for something that wasn’t my fault!” Leon shouted, his desperation showing through.

However, Monokuma paid him absolutely no mind as it continued, “It’s the moment everyone’s been waiting for! The punishment for disturbing the communal life!”

Eyes widening in utter terror, the baseball star abruptly looked over to all of his classmates as he shouted, “I’m begging you! Please, don’t do this!”

He stared desperately at Makoto, silently begging for help. Unfortunately, the lucky student seemed as lost as he did, knowing that the vote was concluded and that the rules had to be enforced.

Even so, it seemed that Makoto wasn’t willing to give in just yet as his head shot up and he protested, “How can you punish him if he didn’t mean to commit murder?!”

“Because that’s the rules! The circumstances don’t matter! If you kill someone, you become a blackened!” Monokuma effortlessly refuted, as if he was quoting a holy scripture. “Besides, if your ‘friend’ Sayaka hadn’t been so hesitant, he’d be dead anyway! And you’d have been framed for it! So why do you care—?”

“Shut up! Just shut up you—”.

Almost on instinct, Makoto tore away from his seat and made a mad dash around the courtroom toward the cheeky bear. However, before he even got halfway there, a gloved hand shot out in front of him and held onto him firmly, jerking him to a halt. It took the lucky student a moment to realize he’d been stopped before he furiously glared at whomever held him.

To his surprise, Kyoko was the one keeping him in place, her grip like iron and her eyes as stern and cold as steel. The sight of her stunted all his momentum and he found himself staring at her with a pleading expression, as if begging to be released so he could at least try and help his classmate.

However, Kyoko shook her head wordlessly, her actions speaking louder than any words she could have mustered. Forced to accept that he was utterly powerless, Makoto’s head slowly dipped until it hung down in shame.

At first, Leon was infuriated, not understanding why she wasn’t letting him at least try to help. However, he knew the answer all too well. There was no saving him, not now. There was nothing anyone could do to stop it what was coming.

And because of that, the last remnants of hope seemed to slip from Leon’s grasp as he once again begged, “C-Come on! You can’t do this! I’m a victim too!”

As if infuriated by his pleas, Monokuma shot him an accusatory glare and replied, “No more begging! No more excuses! You must pay the penalty for breaking the rules! Society demands it!!”

“S-Stop! Please!!” Leon’s pleaded again, still searching for a way to survive this unfair ruling.

“Now then, I’ve prepared a very special punishment for Leon Kuwata, the Ultimate Baseball Star!!”

“No…no…no, no, no, no, no, no!!”

“Let’s give it everything we’ve got! It’s punishment tiiiime!!”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

No amount of screaming could stop Monokuma as its paw gripped the tiny gavel and slammed it down hard on a red button that inexplicably rose up in front of him. On a tiny screen below the button, an 8-bit image of Leon was suddenly dragged away by an 8-bit version of Monokuma.

As Leon watched the 8-bit bear drag his image off the screen, something cold and metallic suddenly clasped around his neck.


 

Mukuro gritted her teeth and suppressed an agonizing scream as she slid down the elevator cord down toward the bottom. It had been further down that she had expected and the bindings on her injured hand were coming undone. Small pink splotches of blood stained the cord as she held on for her life, unsure of when she would reach the bottom.

“Dammit! I can’t slow down!” she told herself, knowing that it was possible but would be detrimental to her mission.

If she slowed, she might not make it in time, but if she continued at her current pace, she may lose all feeling in her right hand…permanently!

Just as she feared her hand was going to lose its grip, she saw a hint of light below her. Her gaze shot down and a relieved sigh left her as she saw the top of the elevator come into view. However, seeing it brought up a new dilemma she hadn’t accounted for.

If she dropped down into the elevator and her classmates saw her, she would have to explain how she was able to slide down the cord for such a long way. It would reveal that there was something suspicious about her, to say the least, and it may even reveal her identity. If that happened, she knew that Junko would have her executed for ‘ruining’ the game.

However, that issue came and left her mind almost instantly. She had to save Sayaka’s attempted murderer, even if it cost her own life. She owed that to everyone, and it would be a fitting punishment for her betrayal. But such thoughts had to wait for later as she came closer and closer to the top of the elevator.

Because she was sliding down so fast, she hit the top hard and lost her balance. Toppling to her side onto the cold metal, her injured right hand slapped against the surface with a sickening smack.

“RRRGH!” she grunted, pulling her now exposed hand to her chest.

Slowly retracting it to view the damage, she held in a gasp as she saw the gaping hole in her palm. Blood poured out of it and she knew there was nothing left to bandage it with down her.

Or so she thought!

Having been in too much of a hurry, she’d failed to remember the long silk tie that was a part of her outfit, only seeing it now because it was sprawled out in front of her. With no hesitation, she ripped the long silk cloth from her neck and quickly wrapped it around the now furiously bleeding wound.

Using her teeth to tie it, she worried that it might not be enough to really stop the bleeding. But that was secondary to her at the moment, as she forced herself to recall the reason she’d descended.

Willing away the pain as best she could, she looked for the hatch that led into the elevator. Upon finding it, she used her good hand to push herself up and crawled over to the latch. With a swift tug, she pulled open the hatch and jumped down into the elevator. Skillfully landing into a crouched position, her gaze shot up to stare forward, expecting her classmates to be glaring at her.

To her surprise, a completely empty courtroom was all she saw. It would have been a relief, if it didn’t signify a more horrific realization.

“That can only mean that…!!”

Her eyes scanning the room frantically, she saw an open set of double doors behind the podiums. A small sign just above it was light with bright red, the words burning into her irises:

IN USE

Before she even knew what was happening, Mukuro broke out into a run. Passing the double doors in an instant, she saw another set of door at the very far end of the hallway, speeding toward them with the speed of a cheetah. All the while, she clutched her bloody appendage to her chest and repeated in her head:

“Please don’t be too late! Please don’t be too late! Please don’t be too late! Please don’t be too late!!”


 

Leon grunted and struggled against the metal straps that held his body pressed against the pole behind him. Suspended off the ground by the straps, he could only stare in horror as a pitching machine suddenly shot out of the floor less than thirty feet from him. It wasn’t until he heard the ominous sound of baseballs being loaded that his panic reached its peak.

“No…No…Oh God, PLEASE NO!!!”

He squirmed and pulled against the straps but it soon became clear that there was no escape. He was going to be pelted with baseballs to death!

Beyond a chain-link fence far behind the pitching device, he saw all of his classmates staring at him in absolute horror. However, none of them dared to look away, for reasons he didn’t even want to think about. But that wasn’t the most despair-inducing part of the execution. No, that came in the form of the demented bear appearing inside the fence.

Happily hopping around next to the pitching machine, Monokuma, clad in a baseball helmet and wielding a thick metal bat, mockingly laughed. Pointing the end of the bat directly toward the captive Leon, the bear uttered a single sentence:

“Batter up!!!”

The instant those words left the bear’s mouth, a plunking sound echoed as the first ball shot out of the machine. With a sickening smack, it smashed directly into Leon’s unguarded abdomen.

“KHAGH!!”

Leon’s lungs desperately tried to suck in air but the combination of pain and shock kept him from doing so. Instead, all he could do was helpless gape as he saw the next ball be fired out of the pitching machine, this time striking him square in the chest. A merciless cracking sound reached his ears only seconds before the pain hit him, as he could feel his ribs twisting as they were at the very least bruised from that hit.

“KRRAHH!!!”

Again, Leon sputtered as he tried to breath, finding himself unable to think or even register the amount of pain he was in. The only thing his mind seemed capable of was forcing his eyes open as he stared at the ball shooting machine that would be his death. And it seemed that the machine was only beginning to be put to use, as he saw the barrel of the pitching device begin to rise up, becoming level with his face.

If he’d have been able, he would have gasped as he realized that his life was about to end. However, the pain was too intense and his mind wasn’t able to process that information. Instead, he merely stared forward, petrified fear warping his features.

“Enough practice swings!” he heard Monokuma chide as the bear raised the bat. “Time for the game to really begi—!”

Just then, from far behind his classmates, a flood of light spilled into the room as the door he’d been dragged through suddenly burst open. Even from so far away, Leon could clearly see what appeared to be a pink-haired angel appear before him. At the same time, a frantic but determined voice screamed:

“STOP THE EXECUTION!!!!”


 

Mukuro had no air and she almost felt her lungs collapse as she shouted her demands.

Unsurprisingly, every single person present spun around to stare at her, more than perplexed by her presence. However, none was more confused than that of Monokuma, as the bear lowered his bat and allowed the pitching machine to momentarily cease as it turned around to face her.

With what energy she had left, Mukuro glared at the automaton, her gaze practically daring the bear to question her actions. And question the bear did!

“Junko! What do you think you’re doing? Not only were you very late to the trial, you stupidly demand that we stop the execution of the blackened!”

With a snap of his fingerless paws, Monokuma reactivated the pitching machine. Fortunately, it seemed it would take a few more seconds before it was ready to fire again. This was Mukuro’s last chance to save…Leon! Even though she knew it had to be him, a part of her was still shocked to see the baseball star strapped to the field pole. But that surprise was put on hold as she regained her composure and readied herself to speak.

As if anticipating her, Monokuma groaned and pointed the bat her before continuing, “The rules say we have to punish the blackened that killed Sayaka! It’s the rules! I hope that you have a very…very good reason for—!”

Not letting the bear finish his statement, Mukuro took as deep a breath as her body allowed and screamed:

“Sayaka…isn’t dead!!!”

If everyone was surprised before, they got a system shock from hearing that.

Of course, Makoto’s eyes lit up as those words reached him, hope quickly building up within him. Beside him, Kyoko held a mixed visage of shock and perplexion, since she had been certain that the idol had departed from this life. Not far away, Byakuya also felt surprise but for a different reason; he’d checked for a pulse but found none…how could Sayaka have fooled him of all people?!

Hina looked to Sakura with an equally conflicted glance, as if not sure if she could believe it, earning a confused gaze from the martial artist in return. Celeste hid her emotions through an awkward smile, one that showed a hint of shame but also a bit of relief as well. Hifumi looked around to the others, unsure of what he could believe or if he was even awake and not in some strange kind of fictional story! Hiro now felt more justified than ever in his prediction; after all, he’d said that no one was going to die…and so far, he’d been right!

Mondo, thoroughly confused by this point, decided to just be relieved that his classmate might not be dead. Beside him, Chihiro let out a meek sob as joyful tears streamed down her face. Not far away, Taka also felt himself give in to confusion but tried his best to hide it, unsuccessful as he was. Toko also felt more than perplexed by this turn of events, though she couldn’t deny that it was nice to hear that her classmate wasn’t actually dead…just like the protagonist of her romance story coming back during the epilogue…

But none of them could possibly understand the utter confliction of joy, sadness and guilt that swallowed up Leon’s mind as those wonderful yet unbelievable words reached his ears as well. However, the tears that suddenly streamed down his face were the clearest sign that he too wanted to believe that the impossible really had happened.

For what felt like an eternity, no one spoke even a single word…well, everyone that is, except for Monokuma.

“Rrrrrh! Don’t think you can stop the execution with a pathetic lie like that!” the bear challenged, more than confident in its position. “I’ll have you know that I’m monitoring all of the cameras in the school and I can assure you that—”.

“Check the nurse’s office then,” the disguised Mukuro fired back, her glare intensifying as she stared into the bear’s robotic eyes, as if staring directly at her sister. “You’ll be in for a surprise…”


 

High above all of them, sitting at the Monokuma control panel, the real Junko hesitantly flinched. She knew it had to be a ploy, something her sister had concocted to try and get back at her for being abandoned. There was no other explanation for it…it just couldn’t be true.

“I mean, there’s no way Sayaka could have…” she began to say but lost her nerve.

Instead, almost on reflex, she stood from her seat, moved around to the side and slowly walked to the door behind her. Pushing it open, she found herself in the monitor room once more, her feet carrying her to the screen that displayed the nurse’s office. As the room came into view, Junko’s eyes widened only slightly at what she saw.

Sayaka was indeed in the nurse’s office, IV next to her bed, her chest rising and falling in what appeared to be peaceful slumber.

Rather than explode with rage or stammer with shock, as most people would do, Junko merely stared at the screen in perplexion for a while longer. Her face was utterly stoic, not a hint of emotion playing on her features in the slightest. As if there was nothing for her to really feel at this moment in time.

And with that utterly emotionless visage, she slowly turned and began walking toward the far wall. On the floor next to said wall, the stuffed Monokuma doll she had flung earlier that day stared up at her as it lay motionless on the floor. Standing over it for a moment and gazing down upon it, she slowly bent over and picked up the bear with one hand.

Holding it up at eye level, she stared into the stuffed bear’s eyes for almost a full minute.

Suddenly, she clenched her free hand into a fist and abruptly punched the stuffed toy directly in the face. She paused for a moment, retracting her hand and staring stoically at the bear…before driving her fist into it again. It was slow at first, one punch followed another and another, growing faster and faster with each passing moment.

Before she knew it, Junko was mercilessly beating the fluffy Monokuma toy, her fist moving so fast she was sure it rivaled even Sakura’s legendary speed. It almost seemed like the pounding would go on forever when abruptly, her attacks halted and she clenched her fist tightly for one last punch.

With a flick of her wrist, she tossed the stuffed bear into the air before slamming her fist into it one last time, smashing the poor toy into the wall directly in front of her, her fist embedded in its face.

Taking deep breaths she hadn’t realized she needed, Junko retracted her hand and let the beaten toy tumble to the floor. Giving it no mind at all, she turned on a heel and proceeded back to the Monokuma control room, her pace surprisingly even and her visage notably calm. Closing the door behind her, she slowly walked over the chair in front of the panel and retook her seat.

Staring through the eyes of Monokuma once more, she couldn’t stop the despairingly euphoric grin that had crept over her lips.

“Well played…‘Junko’!”


 

“You’ll be in for a surprise…” Junko said with the tiniest of smirks, her pink hair frazzled and her outfit ruffled and bloodstained.

Byakuya couldn’t help but frown as he heard Junko’s mocking tone. She seemed far too confident for someone that had been whimpering fearfully for her life only a few hours ago. Even if she was clearly exhausted and looked absolutely ragged, she seemed more determined than he’d ever seen before.

“Almost as though she’s an entirely different person…” he mused, still reeling from the news that his classmate was still alive. The classmate he was certain he’d found dead this morning.

And he wasn’t the only one who was disbelieving. His calculating eyes scanned everyone’s faces and just as he suspected, both Celeste and Kyoko held suspicion in their gazes. However, unlike him he noted, both of them seemed to be more readily accepting of this. It disgusted him that individuals of great intelligence so easily bought into the notion that the pop idol could still be alive. Then again, they hadn’t been the one who failed to find a pulse on the bloody body of Sayaka.

That honor belonged solely to him…much to his shame and discontent.

Pushing that aside for the moment, he glanced over to Monokuma and found the bear strangely still, as if no life existed for the stationary automaton. The Mastermind must have been verifying if Junko spoke the truth and all he had to do was wait until the bear resumed its functions to have his answer. Even if he couldn’t really trust the Mastermind’s words, in this case, he felt that whoever it was wouldn’t be capable of lying their way out of it.

That would violate the rules they had defended so fervently. Not to mention that it would take all of the fun out of the game if the Mastermind decided to forgo their own rules and continued the execution regardless. That notion, more than anything else, kept the affluent progeny’s attention.

“Even with this development, the game is becoming quite interesting. And having more players will certainly make it more challenging…” Byakuya mused as he waited for further developments.


 

“S-S-Sayaka…she’s alive?” Makoto’s mind barely fathomed as he struggled to regain composure.

Even if she had betrayed him and planned to frame him for murder, there was no stopping the relief that washed over him as he drank in Junko’s words. His only friend here, his assistant that had been there for him during these first horrifying days…she wasn’t dead…she wasn’t a cold corpse rotting away in his bathroom.

Almost unbelievably, the lucky student slowly approached Junko. It was only now that he noticed her frazzled state and bleeding appendage…wait, bleeding appendage!!

Before he had a chance to even react, it appeared that the last of Junko’s strength gave out and she crumbled to her knees, grunting audibly and gripping her wounded hand tightly.

“Junko!”

Makoto sped to her side in an instant, grabbing onto her shoulders to keep her from toppling over. The instant he did, he noticed that the bandages on her hand had been torn away and her silk tie had taken their place, and not doing a satisfactory job as a replacement.

“What happened to you?! Why is your arm—?!”

“Never mind that!” she urged him, shocking him into silence as she lifted her head to look at him and everyone else. “We can’t let Leon be executed! He’s not a blackened because Sayaka’s alive!”

“Yes, you’ve said that already. But that’s what we don’t understand,” the condescending tone of Celeste cut in, earning glares that were promptly ignored. “How is it that Sayaka is still alive? I thought we confirmed that she was deceased.”

Her slight accusatory comment was followed by a quick glance at Byakuya whom merely folded his shoulders and scoffed, “She was dead. She had no pulse and her skin was ice cold.”

“T-That’s right! She was!” Taka concurred, trying to regain some form of control over the situation. “And there was blood all over the walls and floor around her. It’s only logical that we thought—”.

“Are you saying I’m lying?” Junko abruptly interrupted, silencing the uncertain Taka and forcing all attention back to her.

“N-No! We’re not saying that!” Makoto insisted, trying to calm everyone.

“Yes, we are…” Celeste immediately refuted, fixing her gaze on the injured Fashionista. “We’ll need to go and see for ourselves if she’s actually—”.

“…It’s true…”

Everyone froze as the high pitch voice of Monokuma silenced them all. They turned to see the automaton slowly walking, not waddling but actually walking, toward them, a neutral expression on its face. And if his words weren’t surprising enough, it was the calm and almost depressed tone of voice that shocked them all.

“W-What d-did you—?” Toko tried to question before a raised paw quieted her.

“I said, and I quote, ‘It’s true’…” Monokuma repeated, emphasizing the previous words to hammer it in. “It appears that Sayaka is indeed…alive and kicking…dammit.”

A gasp escaped almost everyone as their tormentor confirmed what they all, secretly or not, hoped had been. Only Kyoko and Junko seemed able to keep their emotions in check but for very different reasons. And even then it didn’t last long, as Makoto noticed the Fashionista lower her head and breath a heavy sigh of relief.

“H-Hey! Is it true?!!”

A desperate voice from across the way suddenly shouted to them, making each and every student turn toward the execution area.


 

Leon’s mind was racing as the pain from his now seemingly cancelled execution encouraged him to demand answers. He couldn’t make out much of what anyone was saying but he’d certainly heard those first words that Junko had shouted upon arrival. Ever since, he’d forced away his own agony as he tried desperately to listen in on their conversation.

However, he’d been too far away and they all spoke so softly that he could just barely hear them.

Finally, when he’d lost all semblance of patience, he gritted his teeth and shouted, “H-Hey! Is it true?!!” which caused almost everyone to spin around and face him, “S-Sayaka!! Is she really…!”

As if on cue, Monokuma groaned loudly and, once more, inexplicably pulled out a megaphone form behind his back.

“We’re having an important discussion! Please refrain from any further interrupts! Also, I will not be repeating myself just because you weren’t listening carefully enough!”

Despite his current position, Leon felt his rage begin to boil over and all fear of his imminent execution was momentarily halted as he defied the demented bear.

“D-Don’t fuck with me you damned bear!!” Leon almost pleaded as he stared at the group from his spot in the center of the room. “Just…Just tell me what happened to—!”

“She’s alive! Sayaka is alive!”

Those heavenly words were carried by the same pink-haired angel that had stopped his unlawful execution. And even though Junko appeared exhausted and apparently re-injured, she still managed to flash him a hopeful smile from across the room.

As if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders, Leon felt lighter than he had ever been before. And for the first time since last night, he was able to conjure the image of Sayaka’s smiling face as he closed his eyes and smiled.

“She’s…Sayaka…She’s really alive…! I’m…I’m not…I’m not a killer! I’m…we both…are…alive…!”

Hot tears streamed down the baseball player’s face as he openly wept in front of everyone. He didn’t care how he appeared or if anyone mocked him. Nothing in this world could dampen his spirits as he looked upward and continued to cry, letting the moisture from his eyes cleanse his conscience of any remaining guilt.


 

“I’m bored now…” the bear suddenly commented, no longer enjoying torturing Leon. “…Execution cancelled. Now, you punks can go…do whatever you punks do. I’ve got some…things to take care of.”

Monokuma snuck a very accusatory glance at Mukuro before turning its back to her completely.

With a snap of its paws, the pitching machine suddenly disappeared into a hole in the floor leaving Leon alone in the middle of the makeshift ball field. The gate to the execution area slid open and while the baseball player was still strapped to the pole, at the very least, it seemed his demise was no longer imminent.

None of the students had time to speak before the bear disappeared down the same hole that the pitching machine had sank into, the slots in the floor closing the instant the bear was out of sight.

And although Mukuro knew that her sister would not take this intervention lying down, for right now, all seemed well.

“We should go and check on Sayaka,” the calm voice of Kyoko startled everyone back to reality. “We need to see for ourselves how well she’s fairing.”

A murmur of agreement began to rise up between the students before Makoto decided to take charge.

“Right! And we need to get Junko help too,” he said with a nod, extending his hand down to Mukuro. “Can you stand? Does Mondo need to carry you again?”

The soldier suppressed what may have been either a laugh or a sigh, she wasn’t sure at this point.

“At least he’s being considerate,” she mused before shaking her head and replying, “I’ll be fine. Let’s get back up to the nurse’s office and see how Sayaka’s doing. I’m getting worried.”

“As am I,” Celeste joined in, her usual cryptic smile plastered on her face, “I’m very interested to see how she was able to survive such a wound.”

“Yeah! Let’s get out of his creepy place!” Hina abruptly cut in, her enthusiasm completely restored after hearing this joyous news.

“Alright everyone! Let’s get back to the elevator and head up to see how Sayaka is doing!!” Taka shouted to everyone, resuming his usual demeanor as the hard-ass that they deserved but didn’t really want right now.

“Yeah, for serious…” Hiro agreed, already beginning to head for the door. Taking his movement as a sign that it was okay for them all to depart, the student slowly began moving toward the double door at the far end of the room.

Just as some of them were about to exit the execution chamber, a panicked voice frantically screamed:

“H-Hey wait!! You guys can’t just leave me here!! What if Monokuma comes back?!!”

A bit startled, everyone turned to see Leon, still unable to free himself from the pole, wriggling around to try and free himself, but to no avail. Even if he’d been cleared of his crimes, it was more than obvious that his fear of just being in this place was beginning to overwhelm him.

Mukuro felt a hint of remorse growing inside her, knowing that this event had scarred not only her, but him and Sayaka as well. And, like it or not, she knew it was only a matter of time before it grew, especially considering what she’d need to face later.

“Junko…”

Shaking her head to regain her composure, she looked to her classmates and said, “Well? Isn’t anyone gonna help him?”

At first, no one made a move, some out of anxiety but others out of suspicion and contempt. Not that Mukuro blamed any of them…not after going through what she assumed had been a cruel and unforgiving class trial.

Finally, after a lengthy silence, with a tiny smirk on her face, Kyoko turned to everyone and said, “I suppose we’d better get him down. We’ll need to keep an eye on him, at least until we see Sayaka.”

“Agreed. He’s too dangerous to be left alone,” Byakuya concurred, although not for the same reasons that Kyoko had wanted. “Would someone please get the fool down before his incessant screaming attracts the bear?”

Mondo scratched his head and said, “I guess I’ll do it. I’m supposed to be the guard anyway…” He turned around and began heading for the trapped baseball player but not before calling out, “Stop screaming, dude! I’m coming!”

“I will assist you,” Sakura unsurprisingly offered, moving away from Hina and following after him.

With that matter settled, Mukuro tried to rise up to her feet, only to wince in pain as she failed to do so. And then, despite her earlier insistence, Makoto leaned down to her and said, “Here, I’ll help.”

Taking her hand with his own, he placed it over his shoulder and stood up slowly, helping her to stand up. Her face flushed and she was about to push him away when Makoto glanced over and gave her one of his warm smiles. Utterly powerless against that image, the solider averted her gaze and said nothing as they turned and hobbled toward the exit.

Unbeknownst to both of them, the analytical and calculating amethyst eyes of Kyoko lingered carefully on them before she followed after them.


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

“I…I can’t believe it.”

Makoto fell to his knees as he saw Sayaka sleeping peacefully in the nurse’s office. Her skin was noticeably less pale but still hadn’t regained its usual color. Her chest rose and fell lightly and it was obvious that she must still be very weak. Even so, just seeing her there, instead of on the bloody floor of his bathroom, made the lucky student’s eyes well up with unshed tears.

Everyone crowded into the small nurse’s office, aside from Mondo and Sakura who were still unaccounted for due to having difficulty getting Leon down. Apparently those metal straps were so strong that even the Ultimate Martial Artist was having trouble with them, and none of them knew exactly when those three would return.

But that wasn’t prevalent in any of their minds right now, instead only able to focus on the fact that their once thought to be deceased classmate had miraculously been resurrected.

“This…this is real, right?” Hina said quietly as she felt moisture build up in her sockets as well. “Sayaka’s gonna be okay? She’s really gonna be okay?”

She turned to Kyoko, who seemed to be the only one willing to inspect the sleeping girl. Wordlessly, the intuitive girl lifted the sheet covering Sayaka, giving everyone a clear view of the fresh bandages around her abdomen. Nodding affirmatively to herself, she laid the covers back down before pressing two fingers to her neck. Only then did the slightest trace of a smile grace her lips.

“…Her pulse is noticeably weak. But beyond that, she seems to be fine.”

Kyoko’s words were met with a relieved sigh from most of the students, particularly Hina, Makoto and Chihiro, who were teary-eyed. Taka wiped a bit of sweat from his brow but just smiled, pleased that everything had worked out. And, even though she kept her poker face, Celeste also let out a breath no one realized she’d been holding. Hiro gave a relieved laugh and muttered something about being right all along, to which everyone sent a sharp glare. Hifumi quoted that such a thing wasn’t abnormal in this kind of story but he seemed to more be convincing himself than the others. Even Toko, as panicky and fidgety as she was, could be seen smiling as she peeked out from behind one of the divider curtains.

Meanwhile, Byakuya simply shrugged and folded his arms, though he did seem somewhat less annoyed than before. Even so, it didn’t seem to stunt his inquisitive nature as his gaze shifted to glare at Junko.

The Fashionista sat on the adjacent bed, the wound in her palm cleaned and dressed with fresh bandages. Everyone had been so caught up with Sayaka’s miraculous survival that few of them paid notice to her after they’d arrived. Even Makoto, whom had been assisting her in getting to the nurse’s office, found himself torn away from her as he stared at his once thought to be deceased friend.

Junko had replaced and rewrapped all of her own bandages, and all in the short amount of time since they’d arrived in the office, and no one seemed to notice…at least not until Byakuya had decided to take interest.

“Something is wrong…” he thought to himself as he took in her relaxed visage. “She could barely stand before, practically limping through the hallways. Yet now she seems calm and competent enough to give herself medical treatment…and there’s also that other matter.”

Before he could probe the issue more, someone else spoke up.

“Wow! This is amazing!” Hina commented, lifting up the sheet covering Sayaka just enough to look at the handiwork of bandaging. “There’s no bleeding or anything! It almost looks like it was done by a pro! You’re amazing, Junko!”

At the mention of her name, the Fashionista lifted her head from her bandages as everyone turned around to face her.

“I-It’s no big deal—”.

“That’s not true!” Makoto instantly countered, probably riding out the last bits of his trial high. “Without you, Sayaka wouldn’t be here right now! It’s incredible that you were able to do this all by yourself!”

“…Indeed, it is.”

Byakuya’s harsh tone broke through the joyous celebration that the other students were reveling in, his words already sparking inquiry among the more intelligent students.


 

The elevator slowly climbed up the shaft, the humming of the engine the only noise to be heard. After getting Leon down from the pole, he was ushered toward the elevator at his own insistence, desperately wanting to see Sayaka and confirm the truth for himself. Mondo stood next to him, supporting the baseball player by having the latter’s arm slung over his shoulder. Behind both of them, Sakura solemnly stood, arms folded and eyes closed in deep thought.

The silence between them was almost deafening and it wasn’t long before Mondo felt himself getting fed up with it.

“Damn. That took forever,” Mondo commented as he shifted his weight to better support the injured Leon. “Whoever built that thing really didn’t want you getting down from it!”

The instant those words left his mouth, he shut his trap, realizing what he’d unintentionally implied. He’d honestly meant it as a joke but his lack of tact only served to make the silence that much heavier. He thought about apologizing for his stupidity but then he heard Sakura loudly clear her throat.

He glanced over his shoulder and saw her glaring down at him, shaking her head. It wasn’t the first time he’d been wordlessly scolded and the biker really wanted to protest that he hadn’t been trying to be offensive. But as he opened his mouth, the elevator suddenly came to a halt, the metal doors sliding open and leading them back into the school area.

“We should hurry to the nurse’s office,” Sakura said as she walked ahead of the boys, pushed on the large red double doors and held them open. “Everyone is waiting for us.”

Eager to get the weight off his shoulders, in more ways than one, Mondo nodded and replied, “Right. Come on, dude. Let’s go make sure you’re not a killer.”

Sakura wanted to face palm but settled for rolling her eyes at the biker’s insensitive remark, to which Mondo himself didn’t seem to register as offensive in the least. However, neither of them could know that Leon wasn’t listening in the slightest.

All of his thoughts consumed by a single, powerful notion that he begged was true:

“Please let her be alive…”


 

Almost as one, the entire class shifted their feet and turned their gazes toward Mukuro.

“Why are they all staring?” she pondered as almost all of them seemed to have the same question in mind for her. She barely had time to raise an eyebrow before Byakuya stepped forward.

“It’s rather impressive, I must admit. Those bindings are efficient and professional, and the application of the IV and blood packets seems almost flawless,” the affluent progeny falsely praised, drawing stern gazes from the others.

As if picking up on his observations, Celeste also chimed in, “Not to mention the speed at which you must have had to work in order to get down to the trial before the sentencing. If I may ask, how did you get down there so quickly anyway?”

Mukuro scowled at their deliberate and direct questions, unafraid to show that she wasn’t pleased with her actions being questioned.

“I rode the elevator. How else would I get down there?” she answered matter-of-factly, giving the gambler a quick huff of disappointment. If Celeste was disheartened by the answer, she didn’t show a hint of it as she nodded in acceptance.

“I see…” was all she said but her eyes remained unconvinced.

“Hmm…I suppose I can believe that, for now.” Byakuya cut back into the conversation, also seeming a bit miffed at Celeste’s interruption. “As I was saying, it’s staggering that you were able to rescue Sayaka from death. So tell me, how exactly were you able to detect that Sayaka was still alive—?”

“She didn’t!” Hifumi abruptly shouted, striking a pose and pushing up his glasses as everyone turned their attention to him. “For you see, Miss Maizono must truly have been dead! That’s how we were all fooled! But then, Miss Enoshima thought of a way to save her! By gathering the seven mystic balls, she was able to summon the wish granting dra—!!”

“W-Would you be quiet, you p-perverted bag of l-lard?!”

Everyone was shocked to hear, and see, Toko as she shot out from behind the curtain, pointing accusatorily at the fanfic creator.

“N-No one in-interrupts Mast—I mean, Mister Togami!! You s-should just s-shut your fat face!” she continued to scream, her gaze briefly glancing over to Byakuya ever few seconds.

Almost as if he didn’t register her words as an insult, Hifumi let a disturbing grin overtake him as he replied, “Oh, doff mine ears deceive me or did I just hear you call Mister Togami your Mast—”.

“Would you two simpletons be quiet?” Byakuya sternly protested, glaring fiercely and forcing both of them into silence. Both Toko and Hifumi cowered away slightly as the affluent progeny turned his back to them and instead focused his inquisitive gaze upon Mukuro.

“I won’t beat around the bush this time,” he harshly continued, adjusting his glasses as he spoke, “Explain to me how you were able to discover Sayaka was alive and more importantly…how do you, the Ultimate Fashionista, know how to bandage wounds and rig up a blood transfusion?”

A thick and heavy silence overtook the room as everyone was made aware of Byakuya’s intentions. Even those who were unsure of what he’d previously meant now understood the reasons for his questioning. The gears were turning in all of their minds and it was only now that some of them realized that things just weren’t adding up.

Mukuro kept her gaze even as everyone looked to her for answers. Her chest felt tight as she knew there was no talking her way out of this one…at least not by telling the truth anyway.

“I knew this had to be coming but I never imagined it’d be so soon after we got back. I’d hoped to have time to come up with something but…”

As she felt the weight of their demanding gazes grow heavy upon her, Mukuro was about to open her mouth when, once again, a certain someone decided to intervene.

“D-Does it really matter?” the voice of Makoto sounded from the back, everyone turning to see him now standing by Sayaka’s bedside. “I mean, she saved Sayaka and—”.

“Don’t be so naïve.”

Makoto visibly flinched as Byakuya cut him off, only sparing the shortest of glances for his optimistic classmate.

“Even you have to understand that it’s suspicious. She gets excused from the trial, miraculously revives Sayaka and then arrives just in time to stop the execution. It all seems far too convenient for my liking.”

“Well, yeah, a little but—!” Makoto tried to refute before a gloved hand appeared on his shoulder. He turned to see Kyoko once again holding him back. But this time, however, she offered an explanation.

“She needs to tell us exactly what happened. Otherwise, how can we trust her going forward?” Kyoko said plainly but softly, obviously trying to calm him.

For a moment, it looked as if Makoto was going to protest but just like before, it died in his throat. He was still visibly uncomfortable with what was happening but at the very least, he seemed to understand the necessity for it.

“Alright then. Junko, would you please tell us what happened after we left to go to the trial?” he said carefully, wanting to make sure he wasn’t being demanding or anything.

Mukuro felt a mixture of joy and sadness at seeing this. Pleased that he continued to defend her but disheartened by the fact that he suffered for it. This was yet another reason why she had to make sure she kept up her guise and didn’t stand out too much, it would lead to Makoto putting himself in danger for her, just as he’d done several times up until now.

With that renewed vigor, she let out an audible scoff to gather attention before she began to explain:

“After Makoto and Hina left, I didn’t really know what I should be doing. Honestly, I was in a lot of pain and didn’t know what to think. That’s when Monokuma showed up—”.

“The bear came to see you?” Byakuya interrupted with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah, I kinda freaked out at first but all it said was that I didn’t have to come to the trial. I didn’t get the chance to ask why…and I kinda didn’t want to. I was glad I didn’t have to go but then I really felt lost.”

She kept her voice soft but her tone firm, not wanting anyone to suspect why she really felt lost at the time. It seemed to work because no one interrupted her again, instead letting her continue.

“I didn’t feel like just sitting around so I went to walk around for a bit. When I did, I thought about a lot of stuff, like nearly getting impaled and…dying. And before I knew it, I ended up at Makoto’s room. I thought that I should at least pay my respects to Sayaka…all things considered.”

She stole a quick glance at the sleeping idol and didn’t fight the light smile that came over her.

“That’s when I heard her groaning and I checked for a pulse. It was really weak but I—”.

You managed to find a pulse?” Byakuya intruded again, furrowing his brows in disbelief. “I find that highly unlikely, especially considering that I personally checked for her pulse and couldn’t get even a hint of it.”

Mukuro frowned at his egotistic and pious comment but knew that arguing with him would only make her more suspicious. So, she decided to play to her strengths and just shrugged and said, “I must have gotten lucky. I can’t really say how or why I was able to when you weren’t.”

She knew it was underhanded to insinuate such a thing but it was the only excuse she could come up with on such short notice.

At first, she didn’t know if he bought it but she quickly realized it didn’t really matter, because whether or not he did, he simply scoffed and decided to say, “I suppose that’s not the important matter. Tell me how you were able to get Sayaka all the way here to the nurse’s office.”

Holding in a scoff of her own, mainly because the bastard was trying to gain control of the conversation, the soldier decided that skipping ahead wouldn’t hurt, especially since there would be less for her to explain. Even though she knew the most difficult part of the story was just ahead.

“It wasn’t easy…I can tell you that much. I didn’t have anything to carry her with so I was forced to pick her up and carry her all the way there—”.

“Oh, that must have been dreadfully difficult,” Celeste chimed in, inserting herself into the conversation. “I can’t even imagine how much that must have hurt your wounded hand. Was it still bleeding at the time?”

Rubbing her palm affectionately, Mukuro turned her gaze to the gambler and answered, “Yeah, it hurt like a bitch and I thought I was gonna black out from the pain. But considering that Sayaka was dying right in front of me, I did my best to put that aside and get her here.”

For a few seconds, everyone was quiet. Not only by the implications of what had transpired but also the course language ‘Junko’ had just spouted at them. Mukuro knew it was something her sister would actually say and figured now was a good time to let them see that ‘Junko’ wasn’t quite as delicate or fragile as they thought.

By doing this, she hoped that she could act more like herself instead of always putting on airs. She expected at least one person to question her but instead, she got an entirely different inquiry.

“You’re wound was still bleeding? Even with those bandages?” To everyone’s surprise, Kyoko finally vocalized herself, a hand inquisitively resting on her chin. However, a moment later she let her hand drop and nodded to herself. “I see. Then it all makes sense now…”

“What exactly do you mean by that, Kyoko?” Taka questioned, also trying to be more involved in this matter. “What does her wound bleeding have to do with what happened?”

Kyoko’s amethyst eyes slowly turned toward the door, making everyone follow her gaze to it. With utter confidence, she said, “If you look out in the hall, on the floor leading from here to the dorms, you’ll see it.”

Faster than anyone else, Taka rushed over and slid the door open, glancing out into the hallway before giving an audible gasp. “B-Blood! There’s blood on the floor! It looks like it’s coming from the direction of the dorms!”

“Exactly,” Kyoko explained, not letting anyone interrupt her. “We can confer from that trail of blood that Junko must have carried Sayaka here. Whether the blood was from both of them or only Junko is irrelevant. And by judging the amount of it staining the floor, it must have been rather painful for both of them.”

Mukuro could scarcely believe what she was hearing. Kyoko had actually noticed something she’d failed to see and was using it to help cover up the truth, even if the amnesiac detective wasn’t aware that’s what she was doing. It surprised the soldier even more because, for the entire time she’d known the Ultimate Detective, they’d never really spoken.

Even back when they were all students at the academy, the two of them never really saw eye to eye. Aside from the occasional nod while passing in the hall, they basically said nothing to each other since they’d first met. There just hadn’t been a reason to, so they didn’t.

Her sister Junko had spoken to Kyoko a number of times but it was mainly because the despair loving girl wanted to get more info about Headmaster Jin out of her. Junko respected her talents but otherwise wrote her off, so Mukuro had done so as well. That’s why, even knowing how intelligent and talented Kyoko was, the soldier felt it was almost ironic that the detective was going out of her way to defend her.

Especially considering what she and Junko had done to her father—

“Alright then, I’ll consider it conceivable that you were able to carry Sayaka to the nurse’s office,” an impatient Byakuya’s words cut off her train of thought. “But that doesn’t explain how you were able to bandage her and perform a blood transfusion. After all, it’s not something someone of your standing would normally know how to do.”

Luckily for Mukuro, Byakuya’s insistence brought her back to reality and she decided to put her feelings about Kyoko’s assistance on hold for now. She’d have time to deal with that after clearing herself of suspicion.

Mukuro’s eyes shifted over to Byakuya, furrowing her brows as she began again, “And how much about my standing do you really know, rich boy?”

Again, some of the students were caught off guard by her abrasive comment, none more than Byakuya, whose glare was growing more and more menacing by the moment. However, she didn’t give him, or any of them really, the luxury of time to question her before she took a deep breath just to sigh very audibly.

“It’s not exactly something I like to bring up but...I actually used to live on the streets when I was younger. This was before I was discovered by a talent scout while—”.

“Whoa, wait, wait, wait!” Hina abruptly shouted, “You’re saying that you used to be homeless! No way!”

To this Mukuro simply raised an eyebrow at her and replied, “Oh come on, out of everything that I’ve said, that’s the thing that you can’t believe?”

Her tone made the swimmer girl reel back for a second before regaining her vigor, “Well, yeah! I can see you carrying an injured person and stuff but being homeless?! How could someone who ended up at the Ultimate Fashionista have ever been homeless?!”

Even knowing that there would be skepticism while bringing that up, Mukuro felt that Hina somehow took it to a level that was somehow offensive, even if the swimmer hadn’t been trying to.

Or at least she thought that, until Hifumi also chimed in, “Miss Asahina is right though! Your character and story arc don’t match that kind of background at all!”

“And plus…you seem way too spoiled to have ever been homeless.” Hiro, surprisingly, concurred before hanging his head. “Trust me…I would know…”

With all of her strength, Mukuro resisted the urge to slap her uninjured palm to her face. Instead, she just groaned and said, “This is why I don’t like bringing it up. Even my manager went through hell to make sure no one knew about it. Anyway, that’s not important right now, so can I please just get back to explaining how I know how to apply first aid?”

Her frustrated tone seemed to get the message across, which she was very happy for, and it took a moment for someone to respond.

“Yes, by all means, please continue.”

Mukuro was a bit surprised that Celeste had been the one to insist she continue, considering Byakuya had been pushing her up until this point. However, she chose to ignore that and did as instructed.

“So, one time I got caught up in a bit of a turf war between me and this other guy—don’t get me started on that!” she instantly countered before any of them could ask about it. “Anyway, I got pretty roughed up during that whole incident and I was lucky that the police were there. They got an ambulance for me and I was taken to the hospital—”.

“I’m surprised the police actually did such a thing. Normally they would just leave you to die…” Celeste commented, more than a bit skeptical.

Shooting her a glare, Mukuro continued, “There were a lot of people around. They probably felt pressured to do something about the teenage girl bleeding all over the sidewalk.”

“Regardless of how, you ended up in the hospital?” Kyoko asked carefully, obviously trying to push the story along.

Thankful for unintentionally helping again, the soldier let her features soften as she said, “Yeah. When I woke up, I was hooked up to an IV and was getting a blood transfusion. My wounds had been treated and I told that my bills had been covered by some grant the hospital received or whatever. And that’s that…”

A brief silence followed her words as everyone put two and two together almost instantly.

“So, wait...” Makoto slowly began, still trying to fully understand. “You’re saying that you learned how to do a blood transfusion and wrap bandages—?”

“From having it done to myself, yeah.”

She knew it was a bald-faced lie but honestly, it was the best she could come up with on the spot. And surprisingly, it wasn’t completely untrue. She really had lived on the streets for a few years before joining Fenrir. She’d gotten into a nasty turf battle with a group of guys, but unlike her story, the ambulance was called for them and not her. Also, it was true that she’d learned to give a transfusion and wrap bandages just by watching them being performed, it just hadn’t been on her personally.

A disbelieving scoff resounded and everyone turned to see Byakuya scowling fiercely at her.

“You can’t honestly expect us to believe all that, can you?” he openly mocked, narrowing his eyes at her. “Even if it were all true, that doesn’t mean that we can really trust you.”

Even if she knew exactly why Byakuya continued not to trust her, it still made her chest feel heavy. There was absolutely no way for anyone to know the real truth…the fact that she was just like them now, a player in the killing game. She’d thrown her lot in with them and even though it was mainly to save herself from guilt, she’d saved two lives today. That had to count for something, right?

Because of that, despite the danger it could bring her, she wanted them to know she was on their side!

She was about to protest when Makoto stepped toward Byakuya and angrily asked, “How can you say that?! She risked her life to help—”

“SAYAKA!!”


 

Everyone heard the shouting and spun around. The door to the nurse’s office was wide open and standing in the doorway, held up by Mondo’s shoulder, was Leon.

He was obviously in a great deal of pain, holding his abdomen where the baseball had struck him. His breathing was labored and it appeared that he was having trouble just standing up. Even so, the entire time, he never took his eyes off the sleeping idol that lay in the hospital bed across the room.

“It’s…it’s really true!” he stammered, abruptly pushing himself away from Mondo before losing his balance and toppling to the floor.

As he made brutal contact with the linoleum, the biker who’d been supporting him clicked his teeth. “You damn idiot! What the hell are you thinking?! Can you even stand up by yourself?!”

“S-Shut up!” Leon shouted back at him, forcing himself up onto his knees. With great effort, he lifted himself to his feet and began hobbling toward Sayaka’s bedside.

As everyone watched him struggle to get over to her, Mondo huffed and was about to go over and help him when a large, muscular hand grasped his shoulder. He didn’t have to turn around to know who it was.

“Don’t bother,” Sakura told him, staring onward as Leon continued toward his goal. “This is something he needs to do for himself.”

“Sakura! You’re back!” Hina called out, waving to her friend.

The martial artist nodded affirmatively to her before signaling the swimmer to look over at Leon. When she did, Hina was almost in shock that the baseball player had somehow made it all the way over to the side of Sayaka’s bed. From there, he did something that was both expected and unexpected.

Leon Kuwata fell to his knees, ignoring any kind of pain that he was feeling, and slowly reached out to touch Sayaka’s hand. Grasping her fingers, he felt that they were not as cold as they’d been so many hours ago. As if a brace had been released inside him, his eyes welled up with tears before they began gushing down his cheeks.

“T-This isn’t…a joke…right?! She’s…she’s really…!”

As he choked out those words, someone put a hand on his shoulder. A bit shocked, Leon looked up to see none other than Makoto smiling down at him, tears streaming down his face as well.

“Yeah! Sayaka’s alive!!” the lucky student assured him.

“So, I’m…I’m not a killer!” Leon stammered, almost unable to believe it himself. “I…I didn’t kill Sayaka!!”

Unable to say any more, Makoto just nodded firmly to him before he looked over to Sayaka with renewed hope in his eyes. And that was when something miraculous truly occurred.

“Uhg…Uhh…Ahhh…”


 

Warmth surrounded her, encasing her and protecting her from the darkness that had tried to swallow her. Slowly, she felt her consciousness begin to float back to alertness, as if rising from a deep sea.

A soft groan left Sayaka’s lips as her eyes fluttered weakly. She still had very little strength and her body felt as though it was made of lead. Even so, she wanted to wake up, she wanted to open her eyes and see the world once more.

And when she did, she found the two people she longed to see more than anyone else right before her eyes.


 

Leon and Makoto both gasped loudly as Sayaka’s blue eyes slowly peered open. It was a sight that both of them had once thought they’d never see again and it brought a surge of joyous emotion along with it.

“S-Sayaka!!” they both shouted, making the barely conscious idol wince at their excessive loudness.

“Take it easy, you two!” Hina scolded them from not too far away. “She just woke up and already you two are yelling at her!”

“Hina, perhaps you should keep your voice down as well?” Sakura offered, trying to be polite.

Realizing her mistake, Hina’s hand flew up and covered her mouth before she quietly replied, “…right…sorry…”

Her apology went almost unheard by the two boys leaning next to the injured Sayaka, as they were far too preoccupied with her remarkable recovery.

“Do you need anything? Water? Food? Another pillow?” Makoto asked gently, willing to do anything she needed at that time. He had no way of knowing that his incessant questioning wasn’t helping at all, despite his good intentions.

However, he quickly silenced himself as he looked down to see Leon staring at her. The baseball star’s face was wracked with guilt and self-loathing, making him unable to utter a single word, though he obviously had a lot of explaining to do. And just when it seemed that he was going to push himself away from her bedside, he felt Sayaka abruptly reciprocate the firm grasp he had been holding onto her hand with.

Her fingers squeezed his own tightly and Leon suddenly felt himself unable to disengage from where he sat. Before he could even think of a response to that, they finally heard her speak.

“…Le-on…Ma-ko-to…” she forced out, her voice dry and hoarse from so many hours of dehydration and inactivity. It seemed to even cause her pain just to speak their names.

Almost instantly, Leon found his voice again as he gently squeezed her hand back and said, “Hey, hey, don’t try to talk right now! You’ll only—!”

He was silenced as Sayaka gripped his fingers at tightly as she was able to, stunning him into silence. At first, Leon looked to Makoto for guidance, unsure of what to do now but found the lucky student staring down at Sayaka with widening eyes. And when the baseball star turned back to see what was the matter, he felt something within him came to a halt.

Sayaka was staring at both of them with a pure expression of sadness. Her eyes held more guilt than Leon’s ever had as tears began to trickle down her cheeks. And then, despite the obvious pain she had to be forcing herself to endure, she opened her mouth and spoke to them with the most sorrowful of tones.

“…I…I’m…so…sorry….”

In that instant, everyone present knew there was absolutely nothing more to be said.

Sayaka’s words filled the room and for the first time in what felt like forever, the class was made whole once again. The class had felt so divided lately, with some unwilling to trust others and few willing to even work together during the crisis. However, regardless of how they felt about their situation, none of them could deny that at that moment…hope lingered within all of them.

After all, they were all there, and they were all alive.


 

“Okay, enough of this hopeful crap…” a certain despair loving girl murmured as she glared at the monitors in the security room.

Junko’s high was already beginning to dissipate. She figured that the despair of having almost executed her former classmate would last her longer than an hour but then again, she had gone through the five stages of grief already. She shouldn’t have expected much, considering that all of her classmates were still alive and she’d essentially lost Mukuro…though not in the way she’d figured.

“It looks like ‘Junko’ and I are going to have to have a chat…but that can wait. I suppose I should get them all ready for the next stage,” she said softly to herself as she slowly rose to her feet, clicking her heels on the floor as she headed for the Monokuma control room.

After she’d gone, all that was left was a pile of envelops sitting just in front of where she’d been, a name inscribed on each one.


 

“Try to get some sleep,” Makoto insisted, still very worried about the increasingly exhausted Sayaka. “We’ll be right here if you need us.”

“Yeah! We’re not going anywhere!” Leon immediately added, seeing that the idol was having great difficulty just keeping her eyes open.

Unable to respond, due to her lack of energy, Sayaka settled for a brief nod before letting her heavy eyes-lids close. Almost instantly, she seemed to fall back into peaceful slumber, her grip on Leon’s hand loosening as her own rhythmic breathing lulled her into a state of bliss.

As soon as they were certain that she was asleep, Makoto and Leon regretfully stood up, with the baseball player practically have to tear his hand away from the sleeping idol’s fingers. Turning around together, they noticed that everyone was staring at them.

Nervously scratching his head, his face slightly flushed, Leon decided to ask, “So…what do we do now?”

It was a simple and yet complicated question and for a second, there didn’t seem to be a clear answer. That is, until Kyoko cleared her throat to get everyone’s attention.

“The first thing we need to do is decide how to take care of Sayaka,” she said calmly, a hand resting on her chin.

“Hey! What do you mean, take care of her?!” Mondo angrily countered, cracking his knuckles as he believed her words to be more ominous than they truly were.

Signing at the biker’s inability to decipher her words, she instead clarified, “All I meant was that we should decide who will stay with Sayaka while she recovers.”

“Oh…right. Sorry ‘bout that,” the biker apologized as he lowered his fists. “I guess I’m still a bit on edge…after everything that happened.”

“We all are,” Makoto said consolingly, looking at everyone as he spoke. “A lot happened today and we’re all pretty tired, but I think that Kyoko’s right. We need to do something for Sayaka.”

“I concur,” Celeste decided to chime in, taking a step toward them. “In this state, Sayaka is completely defenseless. Anyone could simply put a pillow over her head and smother—”.

“D-Don’t say that!” a distressed Chihiro protested, fearful tears already welling up in her eyes. “We need to think positive! We can’t let ourselves—”.

“I was merely stating a fact,” the gambler cut her off, stunning the petite programmer into silence. “As it stands, Sayaka is very vulnerable. We need someone to look after her while she recovers. I propose that we implement the same tactic we used for guarding the crime scene.”

“You mean having two people stand watch to avoid any suspicion?” Byakuya questioned with a raised brow.

In response, Celeste folded her hand under her chin and smiled as she replied, “Exactly. It is the best way to be certain that no one does anything foolish. Can we all agree to this?”

Glancing around the room, Makoto found that everyone, himself included, seemed to agree with that recourse, so he said, “Alright then, we just need to decide—”.

*Ding Dong Bing Bong*

The abrupt sound of the school bell startled all of them, their minds forced to realize that they were still being held captive and it was time for another announcement. Lifting their gazes almost reflexively, each of them glared up at the monitor as the image of their tormentor, Monokuma, came into view.

“Ahem! This is a school announcement. It is now 10PM. As such, it is officially night-time. Soon the doors to the dining hall will be…”

A hint of relief came over everyone as they realized it was just another one of those automated messages that signaled the time of day. That is, until the bear gave a slightly cheeky laugh that normally wasn’t heard.

“Upupup…By the way, it’s obvious that you’re trying to make each other feel better via mutual wound licking…that’s disgusting! At least use disinfectant! Eyahahahahahaha!”

At once, the atmosphere of the room shifted into frustration, some of them going to outright anger. However, prisoners that they were, they were forced into silence as the bear continued to address them.

“But I digress. I feel the need to remind everyone that, despite someone being gravely injured, you all must obey the rules. Specifically, rule number 3.”

Some of the students, such a Hiro and Hina, reached for their e-handbooks but didn’t have time to check them before a stern voice spoke up.

“They’re referring to the rule that sleeping is only permitted in our dorm rooms,” Kyoko explained, ceasing any need to look up the rule.

None of her classmates were very surprised that she’d have the rules memorized and none of them questioned if it was true or not, as Kyoko had proven herself to be stern and yet honest when the situation was grave. Even so, that didn’t stop the horrific realization that came over all of them.

“Wait, then that means that Sayaka can’t stay here either!” Hina voiced for all of them, adding to the animosity they all held for the demented bear and its rules.

And while all of them felt anger coursing through their veins, none of them were quite as infuriated as Leon.

“Hey, you bastard! How the hell is she supposed to get better if she can’t stay here?!” the baseball player furiously shouted up at the monitor, his previous fears of the bear seeming to vanish as he defended the sleeping idol.

Even knowing that it was reckless to challenge Monokuma, considering the punishment they knew could await them, Leon held his ground and didn’t back down from this unfair rule. And whether they said it or not, everyone was feeling the same, unwilling to place their classmate into harm’s way for an unjust rule.

“Yeah! That’s bullshit!” Mondo abruptly agreed, stepping up and waving his fist at the screen.

“Agreed!” Taka surprisingly concurred, “While the rules must be followed absolutely, certainly there are exceptions! Especially for flawed rules such as this one! Mainly because it didn’t take injury into account!”

“W-What if her condition changes unexpectedly! She should be allowed to stay here until she gets better!” Chihiro piped up, standing between Mondo and Taka before she even knew what was happening.

Like a wall, they stood behind Leon, ready to support him in his resistance to Monokuma’s rules.

They were a strange trio but as they stood together, united by their will to help their classmate, they seemed stronger than ever before. And then, almost as one, the rest of the students lifted their gazes up to glare at the monitor in defiance, being united in agreement for the first time since they’d all arrived.

Even Byakuya, in his condescending way, seemed to support this decision, staring menacingly at the screen as if he actually had the power to overrule the decision.

Silence followed their defiant actions and no one was sure if Monokuma was actually able to hear them, since he’d never responded to threats made at the monitors. And for a moment, no one thought the bear would answer, until its malevolent cackling abruptly returned.

“Upupupupu! The look on your faces is priceless! Wish I had some popcorn to enjoy the show! Oh, wait! I do!”

From behind its back, Monokuma pulled out a huge tub of popcorn. Picking up some of it with its paw, the bear smashed some of the buttery popped kernels at its face, the remnants of the popcorn clattering to the floor.

In any other situation, it may have been comical, but right now, it was one of the most insulting things any of the students had ever seen.

“Damn you!!” Leon screamed and almost seemed that he might lunge at the screen. Before he could even take a step, a stern hand grasped his arm. Stopping instantly, the baseball player snapped his head around to see Sakura holding him back with only one hand.

“Do not carelessly rush into this. We all need to keep a level head.”

As Sakura’s words invaded his ears, Leon was brought back to the events of the previous night, where his good-intentioned but rash behavior had nearly gotten Sayaka killed. It was a sobering memory and just thinking about it helped to force him back to a calmer state of mind.

“Y-Yeah…you’re right.”

Hearing that, Sakura smiled and nodded to him, before lifting her ferocious gaze up to the monitor as well. With her watching his back, Leon felt renewed vigor as they all waited for Monokuma to continue. And they didn’t have to wait long before the bear chuckled slightly, tossed away the remaining popcorn and waved its paw.

“Of course, I’m not that heartless! So, as a special exception to the rule, I will allow Sayaka Maizono to ‘rest’ here until she is able to walk. At which point, she will be forcibly removed.”

Even if it was only a small bit of good news, the classmates all felt a hint of relief, which only lasted until the bear continued.

“As for the rest of you though…there will be no sleeping in the nurse’s office! Violating this rule will result in a punishment involving many pointy objects and possibly a rabid dog!”

Whether they wanted to or not, all of them were reminded of Junko’s foot stomping defiance, with the Fashionista herself tightly gripping her injured hand as those words were spoken. Not giving them much time to process this, the bear chimed in again.

“Okay then, sweet dreams everyone! Good night! Don’t let the bed bugs—oh, that’s right! I almost forgot to mention. Makoto, your room is off limits for tonight for deep cleaning! Punishment awaits anyone who tries to enter while cleaning is in process! Have fun with that!!”

“Wait, what?!”

The Ultimate Lucky Student didn’t have time to protest before the monitor abruptly cut to black, leaving him confused and everyone else wondering what the bear meant. However, one student let a grin slide over her lips as she thought of a wonderful idea.

“Well then, I suppose since Makoto can’t enter his room tonight, he will have be one of the two standing guard, correct?” Celeste proposed to everyone, her smirk widening as the lucky student spun around and gaped at her.

“H-Hey! How are we supposed to watch her when we can’t—?”

“The rule says we can’t sleep anywhere but the dorms. It never said anything about staying awake and watching her,” Kyoko unexpectedly joined in, not coming to Makoto’s defense as much as he’d have liked.

“B-But that’s not—!” he tried to say before being interrupted.

“Are you saying you don’t want to be one of the people protecting your precious Sayaka?” the gambler asked with false shock in her voice.

“N-No! I don’t mind—!”

Smiling daintily, Celeste chuckled and cut him off, “Then it’s settled, is it not? Makoto shall be one of the two to watch over Sayaka.”

“But how do we even know Monokuma’s telling the truth?!” the lucky student insisted.

To his utter disappointment, it was again Kyoko who spoke up, “Monokuma said that cleaning was in progress, most likely meaning your room is being cleansed of being a crime scene. It would make sense then, considering everything that happened there.”

As much as Makoto wanted to refute that, it made far too much sense to disagree with. And it seemed there was no way to really check, considering Monokuma would punish anyone foolish enough to try and confirm it. It seemed that he was completely out of options.

Feeling defeated and outwitted, Makoto let out a deep sigh before replying, “…I guess I’m first then. But what about the other?”

From the back of the room, Junko called out, “Since I’m the one who bandaged her, I wouldn’t mind—”.

“No, not you.”

Although everyone should have been accustomed to it by now, everyone froze as Byakuya once again chose to vent his influence. However, unlike before, Junko didn’t shy away from his comment, sending a fearsome glare his way.

“And why’s that?” she demanded, asking the question everyone else wanted to have the answer to.

“Hmph, isn’t it obvious? You can’t be trusted,” Byakuya informed her, matching her glare with one of his own before turning to face the others. “Let me ask you all this; if Sayaka were to end up murdered again…who would be the least likely among us we’d suspect?”

It was a heavy question that none of them were expecting and it stunned most of them into shock. However, it didn’t seem to affect Hiro that much as he bluntly answered, “Probably Junko or Leon at this point.”

“…Exactly,” the affluent progeny concurred, a little shocked it had been Hiro who answered. Nevertheless, he continued, “As of this moment, Leon and Junko appear to be the most remorseful and therefore cannot be trusted. Or have you forgotten how Sayaka nearly fooled all of us into thinking she was the victim?”

“Hey! Don’t bring her into this!” Leon fervently shouted, barely managing to hold himself back. “She’s got nothing to—!”

“But she does,” Byakuya cut him off, folding his arms and slowly walking closer to the baseball star. “How do we know that this isn’t an elaborate trap set up by you or Junko in order to find a way to win the game? For all we know, your tears may have been fake—”.

“Shut the hell up, you god-damn bastard!” Leon shouted before closing the gap between them and grabbing Byakuya by the collar.

But then, something completely unexpected happened. Even if it was only for a moment, Byakuya seemed to lose his composure and, using only one hand, he effortlessly knocked away Leon’s hands and shoved him backward.

“Don’t you dare call me that again, murderer…” the affluent progeny said, raising his voice as he filled with utter rage.

Just hearing that accusation come from Byakuya’s mouth was enough to send Leon into a frenzy and he was just about to lunge for the bastard again when a white blur suddenly flashed between the two of them.

“ENOUGH!”

To everyone’s surprise, Taka had thrown himself into the fray and was holding out both hands to stop the both of them. Not only that, his tone of voice was even stricter and more disciplinary than any of the students had heard before. And if that wasn’t enough, his eyes were almost on fire as he glared between the two of them.

First, Taka turned to the affluent progeny and said, “We all see your point, Byakuya. But that does not give you the right to decide who we can and cannot trust!” Next, he turned his gaze toward the baseball star and said, “And Leon, while I don’t blame you for being angry at such an insult, violence will solve nothing! You should know that better than I do!”

Giving them no time to refute him, the Ultimate Moral Compass continued, “Now is not the time to be fighting! Especially when we have two injured classmates here!”

To this, both Byakuya and Leon fell into utter silence, averting their gaze away from everyone, the baseball star hanging his head, while the affluent progeny folded his arms and stared upward.

When it became clear that neither of them were going to speak, Taka decided to continue, “We’re all still reeling from what happened today. I say that we, very calmly, decide who will stay with Makoto to watch over Sayaka, then go back to our rooms and rest for the night. How does that sound?”

For a few moments, no one really felt able to speak. This wasn’t the first time that Taka had spoken up to maintain order among his classmates but this was the first time that he’d been completely successful. Perhaps the trial had awakened some kind of ferocious instinct that led him to be fiercer than before, or perhaps he was just tired as well. In either case, his words were sound and no one could or wanted to refute them.

Instead, he got a volunteer.

“I’ll stay and watch over Sayaka with Makoto,” the calm voice of Kyoko broke the silence, her stern gaze fixed upon Taka. “We can discuss switching off who will guard Sayaka in the morning, after you’ve all gotten some rest. For tonight, the two of us shall suffice.”

“Are you certain? I would be happy to stay as well,” a concerned Sakura offered.

“No, we may need you to take over for Makoto and I in the morning,” Kyoko politely declined, “Not to mention that you already guarded the crime scene, it would be unfair to have you or Mondo on guard duty all night as well. Besides, I have some knowledge of first aid and can perform well under pressure, in case her condition changes.”

“That’s true…” Mondo concurred; obviously pleased he didn’t have to stay there all night either.

“And she did handle herself pretty well during the trial,” Taka agreed, not seeing any reason not to go with her suggestion.

Hearing this, Byakuya let out a scoff but was unable to say anything before he was cut off by Kyoko.

“I believe that should lay our objections to rest, even if it is for only a single night,” she said with a slight smirk, enjoying the fact that he wasn’t in control at the moment.

Trying his best to appear unaffected, the affluent progeny scoffed and replied, “Do whatever you please. But don’t come running to me when you get knifed in the back.”

Without waiting for anyone to excuse him, Byakuya made his way to the door and quickly departed, unable to stand the idiocy of his classmates any longer.

“Alright then,” Taka said to all the remaining students, “Makoto and Kyoko will watch over Sayaka for the night and we shall all reconvene in the cafeteria for breakfast, as per usual! Dismissed!”

Makoto watched as his classmates slowly began to depart, emptying the room as they all yawned and rubbed their tired eyes. Turning his back to find a stool or something to sit on, the lucky student was surprised when someone called out to him.

“Hey, Makoto.”

Glancing over his shoulder, he found none other than Junko staring at him. She was clutching her injured hand and held a surprisingly nervous look on her face. Makoto couldn’t imagine why she seemed to so nervous, so he turned to face her and politely replied, “Yeah, what’s up?”

“I…uh…never really thanked you for saving my life. So…thanks…”

Much to his shock, she abruptly bowed deeply to him, leaving him kind of speechless for a moment. It wasn’t until she straightened up that he found himself nervously scratching his head and replying, “W-Well…uh, I mean, you’d do that same for me, right?”

As if a knife had been jammed into her heart, Junko flinched at his words and averted her gaze.

“Y-Yeah…maybe.”

She didn’t sound too sure of herself and it kinda confused Makoto but he didn’t have time to think about it before she said, “Anyway, take care of Sayaka…and if you need my help with anything, feel free to come get me.”

Smiling brightly as he heard those words, Makoto nodded firmly and said, “I will. Thanks, Junko…for everything.”

To his shock and awe, Makoto was dumbstruck as his words brought a genuine smile to Junko’s lips. It wasn’t her usual grin or smirk but a completely natural smile that held a great deal of gratitude in it. It was the first time he’d ever seen such a wonderful sight from the Fashionista and it brought him hope that they could all survive this horrific event.

But just as quickly as it came, the smile disappeared as Junko turned around and headed out the door, leaving him alone in the room with Kyoko to watch over the sleeping Sayaka.


 

“Dammit, why couldn’t I have just said, ‘yes’,” Mukuro scolded herself as she walked toward her room, face still flushed after her conversation with Makoto.

Unfortunately, she already knew the answer to her question, and it was the reason she’d been unable to lie to him. Even after making up that huge story about how she knew about treating the injured, she just couldn’t bring herself to lie to him. Not when he smiled at her…that smile that made her feel…like she belonged.

“But I don’t…I don’t belong with them,” she had to remind herself, furrowing her brow as she walked. “I betrayed him…betrayed all of them. I even considered killing Makoto, just to please my sister. And now, I don’t belong with her either. I mean, even if I had gone through with it, who’s to say that Junko wouldn’t have just disposed of me anyway? After all, I’m sure she’d love to feel the despair of killing a family member…she’s never done that before…”

As she neared her room, she realized that she was still clutching her freshly bandaged hand. Coming to a halt just before her door, she stared at her hand and flexed it, wincing only slightly at the pain. Her movements were still stiff and it would take time to fully recover…at least physically.

Almost immediately after her palm had been impaled, she knew that the wound would forever haunt her. Not only as the first true injury she’d ever sustained but also as a permanent reminder that, just as she had betrayed her classmates, Junko had subsequently betrayed her. The hole in her hand would forever serve to show how little she really meant to this world…or at least, she’d thought so at the time.

Almost before she realized it, that injury began to take on an entirely new meaning. It was proof that she was a survivor, showed that Makoto valued her enough to save her life, and it was a reminder that she was still alive…and she could still do something for him. Even if she wasn’t sure exactly what she should be doing, at the very least, one thing was clear:

“Whatever it takes…I will repay him!” she quietly swore, again feeling the need to assign herself a purpose to exist.

Feeling slightly reenergized, she unlocked her room and proceeded inside, flipping on the light-switch as she entered. However, the instant she was inside, something felt wrong. Nothing particularly seemed out of place…and that’s what felt off. She remembered leaving in a huge rush that morning; her room should have been a mess from that hurry.

Instead, everything looked far too clean…as if someone had been in there to—!

Mukuro’s eyes widened and she found herself speeding over to her wardrobe. Grabbing the handles, she flung the door open and gasped at what she saw…or rather, didn’t see.

“M-My weapons…”

Every single firearm, knife and explosive had been completely removed from the inside of the wardrobe, instead replaced with a number of different designer clothes! Gritting her teeth, she dashed into her sleeping area and lifted her mattress, only to find that the spare clips and extra bullets she’d hidden there were also missing! Practically slamming the mattress down, she grabbed onto her pillow and shook it, infuriated that the miniature palm sized handgun she’d always slept with was gone as well!

Instinctively, the soldier’s hand slipped into her blouse and she grasped the combat knife she’d hidden beneath her clothes. A slight feeling of comfort coursed through her as she grasped the handle of the blade, knowing that she wasn’t completely unarmed. However, that’s when a definitive cackle reached her ears and she knew exactly what had transpired.

Glaring over her shoulder, Mukuro spotted the gleefully grinning Monokuma standing right beside her door. It continued to chuckle to itself, maintaining its cutesy bear voice all the while.

“Firearms are not permitted inside the school! And having all those dangerous knives around is detrimental to your health! It’s a good thing I found them and got rid of them for you…so that you didn’t get punished for it.”

The soldier gritted her teeth and growled in embarrassment. The bear had probably been there the entire time, she’d just been too distracted by the loss of her weaponry to notice! Slowly unsheathing the combat knife and pulling it from her blouse, Mukuro turned to face what she’d feared had been coming.

“I figured you’d come for me…sooner or later,” she said solemnly, taking an offensive stance, angling the blade directly at the automaton. She thought about making the first move but before she had time to devise a strategy, the voice of Monokuma resumed…shifting into the familiar tone of her sister.

“Actually, I’m just here to ask you a simple question,” Junko’s voice took over, phasing out the usual voice the bear used. Clearing her throat, the despair-loving girl plainly asked, “So…what the hell, Mukuro?”

At first, the soldier was a bit startled by the question but instantly knew exactly what her sister was asking of her. She was asking why she’d interfered, shifting the game and giving the advantage over to the students, at least for now. It was a loaded question, but one that Mukuro was more than prepared to answer.

Realizing that her sister more than likely wasn’t there to do her harm, she relaxed her stance only slightly as she smirked, “You told me I could play the game however I wanted, as long as I didn’t reveal my true identity. Well…this is how I play the game.”

Monokuma tilted its head to the side as Junko answered through it, “But that’s the ‘what the hell’ part. You’re not really playing the game because you’re not killing anyone. The one thing you’re best at and you decide to do the exact opposite. It just doesn’t add up, Mukuro—”.

“That’s twice now…”

“Hm?” Junko replied, become the one to be confused.

Mukuro’s eyes narrowed as she answered, “Twice now…you’ve called me Mukuro. But weren’t you the one who said that Mukuro Ikusaba was dead? How strange of you to make such a mistake…”

Her words hung heavy in the air as silence engulfed them. Junko was rarely every wrong about anything, it was a blessing and a curse she’d once said. But even rarer was it for someone, especially Mukuro, to correct her when it happened upon occasion. It was usually followed by either a witty remark, or a furious explosion of anger.

Mukuro wondered which she’d receive for her defiance and was shocked when, in response to her comment, the joyous laughter of Junko erupted from the bear, echoing in the small room. The soldier almost relaxed her guard as she heard what truly seemed to be genuine laughs coming from the automaton that relayed her sister’s voice.

“Hahahaha!” the despair-loving girl howled, barely able to speak through her tirade, “W-When did you learn to talk back?! Oh, I love it!!”

As Junko’s cackling voice continued to resound in the room, Mukuro was growing more and more impatient. She hadn’t expected her sister to visit her again, not after cutting ties with her. And while losing her weapons was unfortunate, she could survive the game without them. In truth, she should have expected this. There was no way that the ‘Mastermind’ would allow for such an unfair advantage, especially when the soldier already held the upper hand over her classmates just by having her memories of them intact.

Even so, she was completely dumbfounded by how happy her sister was about her comment. Almost as if she’d been waiting for this moment for quite a long time…

Suddenly, Junko’s laughter ceased and her voice regained its usual cruel tone, “You know, I really should confiscate that knife you’re holding, too…it is prohibited, after all.”

Just hearing those words made Mukuro visibly flinch and, on instinct, she took an aggressive combat stance. Her eyes burned with fury but there was also desperation there, and her sister knew why all too well.

“Oh? Where’d all that vigor suddenly go? You weren’t worried about back-talking a second ago. Why’ve you gone all quiet on me now?” Junko chided, with the soldier practically able to hear her sister grinning behind the mic. “I wonder, is it because it’s the last weapon you’ve got…or perhaps, it’s the only item you have left to remind you of the good-old days back in Fenrir?”

“Shut up…” Mukuro seethed, somehow finding the courage to defy her sister again.

“Hmph, it makes sense really,” Junko continued unabated, positively elated by her sister’s reaction. “I mean, with your ugly tattoo gone, you’ve got nothing left to link you back to the days when you were actually happy…am I right?”

“I said, shut up!!” Mukuro screamed, grasping her knife with both hands in preparation to attack.

However, before she took a step, she heard her sister let out a victorious laugh, spreading the bear’s arms wide, as if inviting her to attack.

“Come on then…do it!” Junko enticed her further, her voice shaking from what could only be described as despairingly horrific euphoria.

Gritting her teeth so hard she thought they’d crack, Mukuro held her ground and managed to keep her anger under control…if only just barely. It was obvious that Junko wanted her to lash out and attack; it would give the despair-loving girl a valid excuse to execute her. But even knowing that, it didn’t help subdue the rage the soldier felt boiling up.

As she felt herself losing control, her eyes darted over to her bandaged appendage. In a desperate bid to calm herself, she focused her thoughts on the image of Makoto coming to her rescue and bandaging her once it was over. She remembered the warmth of his hands, and how gentle he’d been when he’d taken care of her. And how, if she lost her temper now, she’d never get the chance to repay him…and she wouldn’t be around to help keep him safe!

That thought alone brought a sense of calm amidst the hateful comments her sister had thrown at her. Unclenching her jaw and taking slow but deep breaths, she gradually began to bring her anger under control. Carefully, Mukuro relaxed her stance and let her hands drop to her side, but still clutching her knife as a form of comfort.

Taking in even more deep, cleansing breaths, the soldier glared at Monokuma and said, “I won’t let you win this time. Of that, I can assure you.”

Only the tiniest bit shocked that her plan to infuriate Mukuro hadn’t worked, the despair-loving girl cocked Monokuma’s head to the side as she took in her sister’s determined visage.

“Oh? Is that so?” Junko mockingly replied, squeezing in a bit of a snicker. “Let’s say you do manage to win. What then? You don’t have a place to return to—”.

“I’m aware of that,” the soldier cut her off, slowly lifting up her knife and angling it toward the bear once more. “But who said that I’d be playing for myself?”

Hearing this, the automaton that Junko spoke through suddenly expressed an image of frustration, it’s face turning read as it glared toward the soldier.

“Oh, come on! You don’t really think you can—?!” Junko tried to say before she was cut off once more.

“I won’t let the game go the way you want it to anymore! My goal isn’t to survive this game,” Mukuro defiantly explained, not letting her sister interrupt her anymore. “As you said, I know what awaits me outside these walls. I know that I’m beyond saving…this school will be my grave. However, I plan to do everything in my power to kill you…and free my classmates from this hell we’ve put them in!”

It was now Mukuro’s time to smirk as she made her position clear. She wasn’t playing the game to save herself, nor was it truly as a form of redemption. She was a cornered animal that was lashing out at the one who’d put them in that position…no, more like a mother determined to protect her young. The right metaphor didn’t really come to her at the moment but she couldn’t care less.

For the first time in her life, she’d stood up to Junko. And even though she could feel her legs trembling as she decided to rebel against her sister, in her heart, she knew that she’d finally done something right for a change…and it was by her own choice!

She more than half expected her sister to begin laughing at her again, mocking her for making such a suicidal choice. However, to her surprise, her sister was completely silent…as if she hadn’t even considered Mukuro would ever say such things to her.

Just as the soldier thought that Junko may have fallen asleep, or was simply ignoring her, Monokuma abruptly returned back to its normal visage, standing there solemnly and just staring at her.

“Impressive,” Junko suddenly spoke through the bear, her voice even and stoic. “I guess I can let you keep that knife then. You’ll certainly need it if you plan to kill me.”

Somehow, it was jarring to hear Junko mention her own death so casually. She’d always insisted that she was beyond killing, that her death would need to be filled to the brim with despair before she even considered letting herself leave this world. And it was at that moment that Mukuro had a last minute revelation.

“Junko, you…you didn’t come here to kill me…did you?” she questioned, surprised that she even realized it herself.

Instead of answering, Monokuma slowly shifted its feet and turned around. Without uttering a word, the bear waddled over to the door and began reaching for the knob. Seeing this, Mukuro couldn’t stop herself as she took a step forward, calling out to her sister.

“Wait! What did you come here for, Junko?!” the soldier asked, almost desperately, completely unable to comprehend why her sister had come in the first place.

Just before Monokuma opened the door, it glanced over its shoulder and Junko’s voice softly spoke through it.

“This is the last time we’re going to talk like this…Goodbye.”

The gentle, almost regretful tone of her sister’s voice startled Mukuro and she found herself frozen in shock, staring down at the automaton as it slowly turned its head and opened the door. She wanted to call out, to question her sister on what she meant by saying farewell…but she already knew.

Her choice had been accepted…her sister was actually accepting her decision to play the game as she saw fit. And because of that, both sisters knew that only one of them would survive the game.

As Monokuma slipped out into the hallway and closed the door behind it, Mukuro lowered her head and felt a single tear slide down her cheek.

“…Goodbye…Junko…”

Reaching a hand up, she quickly wiped away the moisture from her eyes and hardened her features. Moving over to her dresser, she took off her wig and replaced it on the wig form. Swiping her uninjured hand through her sweaty black locks, she sat down and gazed at her reflection. A smile crept over her face as she realized that the person staring back at her wasn’t the same one she’d seen in the mirror that morning.

There was a fire in her eyes and as ironic as she knew it was, she felt hope beginning to well up within her. And even more surprising…she liked it.

Chapter 1: END

Two more students have lost the will to kill:

-Leon Kuwata-

-Sayaka Maizono-

12 students ‘remain’


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

The nurse’s office was quiet as Makoto and Kyoko neared the end of their long night. Peacefully sleeping in her bed, Sayaka hardly stirred in the slightest, her color almost completely restored and her breathing seemingly back to normal. The lucky student couldn’t stop himself from smiling as he continued to look after her, tiredness barely nipping at him even after keeping watch all night.

The hours passed by rather quickly and, considering all that happened, Makoto was very thankful for it. And even though he should have been utterly exhausted, the resolve to make sure nothing happened to Sayaka seemed to keep him active. Which was great because Kyoko didn’t seem to be particularly chatty, opting to stand by the door and keep watch in silence.

Not that he didn’t appreciate her presence, of course.

It was just that, he kinda hoped to talk with her while they stood guard. There were some things he wanted to ask her about, like how she was able to deduce so much of what happened during the trial. She’d practically solved the entire case herself! He wondered why she didn’t just come right out and tell them everything she knew at the beginning of the trial. Then again, if she had, Leon would have been executed before Junko could show up to save him, so it worked out in the end but…

Shaking his head, he decided that it didn’t really matter anyway. Everyone was alive and since it was nearly 7AM, the others would be waking up very soon. Then, they could discuss what they should do about…Sayaka…

All of a sudden, his smile upturned into a frown and he lowered his head. He’d been so preoccupied with everything that had happened; surviving the trial, hearing of Sayaka’s revival, ensuring Leon didn’t get executed…it didn’t give him any time to really think about what happened.

But now, in the silence of the nurse’s office, his mind finally came back to a single question he needed to know the answer to:

“Did Sayaka really try to frame me?”

Of course he didn’t want to believe it…even now—no, especially now that Sayaka was still alive. But the evidence was too concrete to refute, Kyoko and the trial had seen to that. And while he knew it was better to know the truth, a large part of him wished he’d never known.

It was hard to accept that someone he’d vowed to protect, the person he’d trusted the most, had been using him the entire time. Even with her wearily voiced apology, it didn’t stunt the pain of knowing that she’d planned to use him to escape. And the most heart-wrenching thing was…Makoto wasn’t sure that if she had succeeded in killing Leon, he would have spoken up and exposed her.

Squeezing his eyes shut, in a vain attempt to block those thoughts, the lucky student found himself falling deeper and deeper in anguish.

“She probably knew that…and that’s why she chose me in the first—”.

“—Makoto.”

At once, the lucky student’s eyes shot open and his head snapped up to see Kyoko standing over him. Her face was as stoic as usual but strangely, Makoto noticed a hint of emotion in her otherwise expressionless eyes.

“Y-Yeah?” he said nervously, unsure of how to really talk to her, especially since this was the first time they’d spoken since the others had left.

“You shouldn’t rest your eyes just yet,” she said, a hint of concern in her voice. “We’ve only got a few more minutes before the morning announcement. Once we meet with everyone, and get someone else to guard Sayaka, you can sleep for the rest of the day if you want. But for now, just concentrate on staying awake. Alright?”

“Oh!” he replied, more than a bit shocked, “Yeah, you’re right. I’m fine. I was just…thinking about something.”

At first, Makoto was kind of surprised by her concern. Sure, he knew she wasn’t heartless or anything but she’d noticed that he’d closed his eyes and in only a few seconds, she was already encouraging him to stay awake. She was a lot more observant than he guessed. But then again, considering what happened during the trial, he really shouldn’t have been.

Because of that, he shouldn’t have been surprised when she suddenly crossed her arms and said, “You’re thinking about how Sayaka may have betrayed you, aren’t you?”

That comment completely caught him off-guard and for a moment, Makoto blankly stared up at her, his jaw hanging open as he struggled to find words.

“H-How did you…?” he began to say but quickly silenced himself, shaking his head and sighing. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised…after the way you handled the trial.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” she corrected him, brushing off his compliment almost instinctively. “You did remarkably well yourself, once you had all the evidence. But that’s beside the point.”

Kyoko turned her gaze and fixated on him, making him shrink. She didn’t even have to ask the question again, the way she stared at him demanded an answer.

“You’re right,” he solemnly admitted, knowing that denying it would only complicate things. “Honestly, I avoided thinking about it until now, but…”

As he trailed off, he heard the clicking of Kyoko’s boots and he lifted his head to see her walk to over to Sayaka’s bedside. For a moment, she merely stood there, watching the pop idol’s rhythmic breathing without saying a word. Just as Makoto opened his mouth to say something, she cut him off.

“Makoto, do you remember what I told you, as we went into the trial?”

The question stopped him for a second as he had to think back to what exactly she’d told him.

“You mean about having to discover the truth for myself?” he asked softly, unsure if it was the right answer.

“That’s correct,” was all she replied.

However, even if she didn’t say it aloud, he knew exactly what she was implicating. Lowering his gaze, he continued, “You wanted me to realize that Sayaka had betrayed me by myself, didn’t you?”

As he asked that, he lifted his gaze up and was stunned to see the tiniest hint of a smile spreading over Kyoko’s lips as she answered, “And you did. Honestly…you’re a lot smarter than I initially gave you credit for.”

A part of him wanted to be upset by her comment, because it meant that she previously didn’t think he was very intelligent…but he hardly blamed her.

Gripping his pants tightly to hold in his self-loathing, he seethed, “No…I’m not. The idea that Sayaka would betray me…the thought never crossed my mind. I feel like such an idiot…becoming such an easy target like that. She played me…right from the very beginning—!”

“I’m not so sure about that.”

Makoto almost froze as she contradicted him, making his head snap up to stare at her in bewilderment. Finally turning his way, Kyoko met his gaze head on as she continued:

“Sayaka did mean to double-cross you. That much we know to be true. But in regards to her manipulating you from the start, I don’t think that was the case.”

“Huh?” Makoto answered, completely dumbfounded. “How could you possibly know that?”

His tone was more stand-offish than he’d wanted but it seemed that Kyoko didn’t mind as she said, “Up until the very end, I think she was indecisive about, well, everything really. More than likely, she doubted that she could really kill someone, doubted she could really deceive you…and doubted that she was going to survive.”

The heavy implication in her words sparked a swirl of emotion inside Makoto but before he could act on them, she continued.

“And that’s why, as she lay there, believing she was going to die…she was thinking of you.”

Makoto froze as he heard her say that and on instinct, he replied, “She was…thinking of me?”

With a firm nod, Kyoko elaborated, “Her message to us…her dying message…it was meant to protect you.”

“W-What?” he stammered, unsure if he’d heard her right. “T-That’s crazy! Why would you think that?”

Slowly, he watched as Kyoko’s features began to soften as she answered, “If she didn’t care what happened to you, she never would have left that message.”

“But…didn’t she do that just to get back at Leon for trying to kill her?” he pointed out, still unable to believe that Sayaka would do such a thing for him.

“That’s certainly one possibility,” Kyoko admitted, nodding her head a single time. “But I don’t think that’s the case…considering her heartfelt apology.”

More than anything else Kyoko had said, those words sank deep into the recesses of Makoto’s mind as he replied, “You can’t just say something like that…we don’t know what she was thinking …especially with everything that’s been going on.”

To this, Kyoko shrugged her shoulders and said, “That’s true. But fortunately for all of us, we’ll have the luxury of being able to ask her about it once she wakes up.”

For a few moments, silence grew heavy between them. Makoto didn’t know how to respond to that, nor did her really want to. However, he knew that there was still one more burning question he just had to ask before he could feel satisfied.

“…Why are you telling me all of this?” he asked plainly, making certain that his confusion was evident.

Instead of replying right away, Kyoko paused but only for a moment before answering, “Because…you’re the kind of person who can overcome this. Because you were able to move past the horrible things that Sayaka and Leon tried to do…and you keep moving forward. And without someone like that, the others will never be able to break free of this desperate situation.”

The utter confidence in her voice, the faith she was displaying for him…it left Makoto utterly speechless. If it had been anyone else, he may have been unnerved by how he was being treated…but for some reason, when it was her, it didn’t really bother him.

In fact, in a strange sort of way, he trusted Kyoko more than anyone else at the moment.

Makoto wasn’t quite sure why…maybe it was because of how she acted during the trial; stopping him from attacking Monokuma, an act that probably saved his life. As well as guiding him through the more difficult parts of the trial, especially when he felt lost and afraid. Not only that, she defended Leon even after he was revealed as the culprit, because she somehow knew he wasn’t the monster everyone made him out to be.

More than anyone else…Kyoko genuinely seemed concerned for the well-being of her classmates. He admired her for that. Mainly because, it wasn’t exactly what you’d expect from the normally stoic young woman. In a strange way, her resolve and dedication gave himhope that all of them would be able to survive the horrible nightmare they’d fallen into.

Even so, he did feel that he had to correct her on one part.

“You were wrong about one thing,” he told her, earning a raised eyebrow before he continued, “I’m not ‘moving past’ what Leon and Sayaka tried to do…I’ve accepted their actions for what they were and I understand them better because of it. I know their true feelings now…and I’ll carry those feelings with me…for the rest of my life if I have to.”

As his words echoed in the small room, even he thought he sounded really cheesy saying a thing like that. But he had to admit, everything he’d said, it somehow felt…right. He briefly wondered if that was true and got his answer in the strangest way he could imagine.

Staring down at him, with the tiniest of smiles stretched out on her lips, Kyoko said to him, “Well then, I have high expectation for you.”

It was then that the annoying sound of a bell reached their ears.

*Ding–Dong–Bing–Bong*

“Ahem, this is a school announcement. It is now 7AM…”

As the obnoxious voice of Monokuma continued its morning ritual, Kyoko’s faint smile faded and she turned to face the door.

“We’d better go. The morning meeting will be starting soon,” she said, her hardened exterior returning faster than Makoto had wanted.

Stealing a glance at Sayaka, the lucky student protested, “But we can’t leave Sayaka alone like that. What if someone—”.

“Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone’s going to try anything,” Kyoko said reassuringly, looking over her shoulder back at him. “I’ve been watching the hall outside the office all night. At no point did anyone get past me. And even if they did, if someone didn’t show up for the morning meeting, or at the very least, arrived later than us, they would immediately fall under suspicion.”

Again, Makoto was left speechless as Kyoko effortlessly resolved his fears and put his mind at ease. She was almost like a manga heroine, always knowing what to do and never giving up hope. And each time she helped him, Makoto felt himself becoming more and more interested in getting to know her.

“Y-You’re amazing…” he gently whispered to himself.

However, he must not have been quiet enough because Kyoko turned around with a raised eyebrow and asked, “Did you say something?”

From seemingly nowhere, Makoto flushed and he nervously scratched his head while averting his gaze. “N-Nothing…let’s go then. We shouldn’t keep the other’s waiting.”

Although it was obvious that she wasn’t completely convinced, Kyoko seemed to let the matter drop, nodding firmly and answering, “Indeed.”

Turning around, she headed toward the door, Makoto nipping at her heels.


 

For the first time, not a single student was late for the morning meeting. As the morning announcement rang through the empty halls, they all sat, gathered together in the cafeteria, in silence.

Once more the students had begun to group themselves. Mondo leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling. Taka, as per usual, was standing instead of sitting at the head of the table. Chihiro sat between them, which was a strange thing for her to do, being surrounded by two men like that. Celeste seated herself just across from her, her hands folded daintily into her lap. Hifumi took up the space next to her, staring down at the table looking exhausted, probably because he didn’t get much sleep. In contrast, Hiro was nothing but smiles that morning, muttering about his predictions or something. Hina and Sakura sat next to each other, chatting about healthy activities.

And then there was Junko, who sat beside them in utter silence, her usual smug attitude seemingly dented by her near-death experience the previous day. Also, while it seemed that she had put in the effort to put on make-up today, she obviously wasn’t trying as hard as before, probably because she’d realized that there was no real need for it. The only reason she stuck out at all was because she’d changed out of her blood-stained clothes and into a white designer blouse that had a black ribbon in the center, accompanied by a dark blue skirt that hung down to her knees, her usual black boots adjourning her feet.

And, while most of the student sat at the long table in the center of the room, Byakuya and Toko decided to remove themselves from the others, with the former sitting at an adjacent table and the latter standing near said table.

However, Leon sat off to the side, alone at a table far removed from the long center table. He didn’t have the heart to sit with his fellow students, not after what he’d tried to do. And the feeling seemed mutual, considering that his classmates had barely glanced at him since yesterday.

“I can’t blame them. I’d probably do the same thing…” he thought to himself as he waited for the meeting to begin.

It was about five after 7AM now and the only three not present were, of course, Makoto and Kyoko, who were looking after Sayaka, who was still recovering.

“Everyone! Quiet down and listen!” Taka proclaimed, speaking mostly to the students seated around the long table. “I’m glad to see everyone was early for the meeting today, it boasts of your fortitude and dedication. And I hope that you all got a good night’s rest, because we’re going to need it today.”

“Yeah, about that,” Mondo spoke up, putting his feet up on the table and leaning back. “What the hell are we supposed to do now? I mean, I know we need to talk about who’s gonna guard Sayaka but…”

“We also need to discuss what, if anything, needs to be done about both her and Leon,” the slightly accusatory voice of Celeste pointed out, not even bothering to turn toward the baseball star as she spoke.

“What do you mean?” Chihiro questioned her.

An annoyed scoff came from Byakuya before he answered, “Isn’t it obvious? We need to decide how we intend to deal with the two of them. Or do you want two potential murderers walking among us unchecked?”

“Y-Yeah! They tried to k-k-kill before! Who knows if they’ll t-try it a-again?!” Toko swooped in and backed up the affluent progeny.

Leon’s hands balled into fists and he knew that he should have taken offense to that but given his circumstances, he couldn’t find the words to refute her. And even though he had expected this to be the case, it was even worse when he was confronted with it directly.

“Before any of that,” Taka interrupted the conversation, gathering everyone’s attention. “We need to send someone to fetch Kyoko and Makoto. It’s not right to discuss this without them. Do we have any volunteers?”

At the mention of them, Byakuya visibly scowled and turned his head away from the others. He was obviously still bothered by how they usurped his authority yesterday but he remained silent on the matter. Not that anyone expected him to volunteer anyway.

“I can do it!” Hina abruptly announced, standing up and getting ready to leave.

“That won’t be necessary.”

Everyone turned to see Kyoko and Makoto entering through the double doors. And while Kyoko didn’t show any signs of exhaustion from their long night of guard duty, Makoto had heavy bags under his eyes and looked half-dead.

“Good morning, you two!” Taka earnestly shouted to them. “Now, while you technically could be called late, your act as guards for Sayaka should be made note of! So, as a sign of good-will, I will graciously overlook your tardiness due to your good nature in volunteering yourselves! Haha!”

The overly pleased smile that Taka plastered over his face actually hurt to watch. But no one had the heart to tell him that his ‘good-will’ was migraine inducing, so they let him have his moment. Well, perhaps Byakuya did but he was far too busy being stuck-up to say anything.

As such, everyone waited as Makoto and Kyoko took their seats at the long table.

“Hey so, before we get to talking, I have a question.” Everyone was kind of surprised to hear Hiro speak up but no one stopped him as he asked, “Sayaka’s all alone in the nurse’s office, right? Is that really okay? I mean, what if something happens to her?”

Again, the students were a bit shocked that, of all people, Hiro was asking a very important question.

“That’s true…” Hifumi concurred, an eerie smile creeping over his face. “What if Monokuma were to return and decide that Sayaka is actually an animatronic outside of its exo-suit and has to be gruesomely stuffed inside a spare Monokuma robot, crushing her skull as it’s forced into—”.

“I don’t think we have to worry about that.”

Surprisingly, Junko was the one who spoke up and ceased Hifumi’s ramblings, much to everyone’s relief. Folding her hands across her chest, she continued, “Monokuma always follows the rules…if he was going to go against them, then he would have finished me off after I survived yesterday. And he wouldn’t have allowed Leon to live after it was revealed that he wasn’t a blackened student.”

“But he let the both you live, instead of killing you himself. That’s because he wants us to be responsible for any killings. As for his reasoning, I can’t say right now.” Kyoko chimed in, supporting Junko’s theory. “Because of that, we can be assured that, at least for the time being, leaving Sayaka alone will be fine.”

For some reason, it felt odd that Junko and Kyoko were working together to reassure everyone. Leon couldn’t really say why it felt awkward, apart from them having very differing personalities, but still it was odd to see them collaborating. But in either case, it seemed to settle everyone’s fears.

“Alrighty, now that that’s been settled…what were we talking about?” Hiro said nervously, obviously not wanting to facilitate the conversation himself.

“We were discussing what needs to be done about Sayaka and Leon,” Celeste said as they got settled in.

To this, Makoto raised a weary eyebrow and said, “What do you mean, ‘what needs to be done’? Don’t you think they’ve suffered enough? I mean, they nearly died, after all—”.

“And you think that redeems them?” Byakuya interrupted, glaring daggers at his naïve classmate. “Just because they failed to ‘graduate’ once doesn’t mean they won’t try it again.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s right for us to treat them like criminals,” Makoto countered, unafraid to oppose the Togami Heir. As he spoke, the lucky student began looking around the table and paused for a moment. “Wait a second…where’s Leon?”

Hearing his name being called, an awkward groan escaped Leon as he raised his hand and said, “Uh…over here.”

As Makoto looked over to him, he seemed genuinely shocked that he was as far removed from the table as he was. “…Not that I’m questioning where you want to sit but, why are you all the way over there?”

Leon almost wanted to face-palm but held himself together. “I just…wanted some space, that’s all.”

Leon watched as his words reached Makoto, the lucky student’s features hardening a bit, completely understanding why and yet not really being comfortable with it. And again, the baseball star’s strange mixture of guilt and relief as he was once more reassured that the one person who should hate him the most was the only person who really seemed to be on his side.

“Don’t get away from the discussion,” Byakuya cut in, making everyone face him directly. “Once Sayaka wakes up, we need to decide how we plan to punish her for—”.

“What?! Punish her!” Leon practically screamed, “I’m the one who tried to—!”

“Are you forgetting that she was the one who initiated everything? Because of her, our first attempted murder, as well as our first class trial, came to be. Like it or not, she started the game. And now, we have to play it,” the Affluent Progeny countered, not even needing to raise his voice.

“Wha-?! That’s…!” the baseball player stammered, unsuccessfully fighting to defend his classmate.

There was a heavy silence as everyone, especially Leon, found themselves unable to refute him. No one could deny that a feeling of dread had set in after the first case and it wasn’t going to fade any time soon. It wasn’t until a timid voice spoke up that the horrible silence finally abated.

“G-Game? How could you call this a game?”

Everyone turned to see a teary-eyed Chihiro struggling to meet Byakuya’s accusatory gaze.

“Because that’s what this is. A game. A game of life or death,” he answered matter-of-factly, hardly dissuaded by his petite classmate’s objection.

“B-But if we work together—” the programmer tried to counter but was ushered into silence as Byakuya turned to face her head on.

“We were already ‘working together’ and we all saw how that turned out. Worthless notions like friendship or camaraderie have no place here. Anyone could betray us at this point. Look what happened to Makoto, he foolishly trusted Sayaka and because of his naïveté we were the ones who nearly lost our lives.”

Shrinking back a bit, Chihiro choked down a gulp as she said, “B-But, no one actually died.”

“That’s right!” Hina suddenly chimed in, obviously unimpressed with Byakuya’s attitude, “If anything, now is when we need to cheer up! If we all stay united against the Mastermind, then I’m sure we can find a way out of—!”

“Haven’t you been listening to a word I’ve said?” the cruel tone of the affluent progeny practically sliced through her statement, drawing all attention back to him. “’Working together?’ ‘Fighting a common enemy?’ That kind of fantasy only happens in manga or other worthless fiction. It won’t be that easy to oppose the Mastermind.”

“Um, why do you say that?” a curious Hifumi inquired, seemingly unsure of who he should be siding with. In response to his question, the amused chuckle of Celeste caught everyone’s attention.

“The mastermind’s influence is far greater than we first thought. Taking over Hope’s Peak, which was supposed to be an impossibility, and modifying it to suit their needs. Creating Monokuma, a highly advanced piece of technology. Not to mention providing for all of our needs, supplying food, water and…other comforts. Everything planned out to the most excruciating detail…there are very few people or even groups that would be capable of such a monumental feat.”

She paused for a moment, letting her words sink in before finishing, “This is not the work of an everyday psychopath. Defying them, as we’ve seen, can be more than fatal.”

Even though they all tried not to, the bulk of the students couldn’t help but glance over to Junko, if only for a moment. The bandaged hand that rested on the table in front of her served as a reminder of their helplessness. And the Fashionista herself slightly hung her head at the mention of it.

However, much to everyone’s surprise, Junko lifted her head and said, “There’s something you’re missing though.”

“Hm? What would that be?” Celeste replied, half-surprised and half-intrigued.

“We’ve seen what the Mastermind is capable of, but we also know that they won’t betray the rules that they’ve established, even though it would be more beneficial to them. As long as we don’t break any rules, then there’s nothing to worry about.”

“I see. So you’re finally starting to adapt to this way of life?” the gambler pondered, a sickly sweet smile spreading over her pale lips.

Reeling back a bit, Junko answered, “That’s not exactly what I meant.”

“Oh, that’s a shame,” Celeste half-heartedly replied, “And here I’d thought you’d begun to realize how foolish your previous actions were. It seems that history is doomed to repeat itself for you.”

Junko’s sky-blue eyes narrowed as the insult hit her ears, glaring fiercely back at her offender. “What I was trying to say was; as long as we don’t do anything stupid, like provoking our fellow classmates, we should be able to find a way to escape.”

Celeste didn’t miss the insinuation Junko made toward her but instead of retorting, she merely twirled a strand of her hair and pretended to ignore the Fashionista’s presence. Seeing how her comment had affected the gambler, Junko folded her arms and huffed before falling silent as well.

“So then, what’s going to happen now?” the deep voice of Sakura asked, not letting the silence dig into them.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Byakuya spoke up again, his condescending tone becoming more familiar by the moment. “Anyone who wants to escape…will have to follow the rules and play the game accordingly.”

With another huff, Junko turned her attention over to him and said, “Why do I get the feeling that your idea of ‘escaping’ is vastly different from the one I was talking about?”

“You were the one who suggested that we follow the rules, isn’t that right?” he chided with a confident smile that bordered on arrogance. “In this case, the only option is to deceive those around you and win the game…as dictated by those rules.”

Byakuya’s smile grew into a condescending smirk as he regained the authority he believed he was destined to have. Junko grit her teeth and quietly seethed, infuriated that her own words were used against her. Just as she was building up an argument against him, another voice, this one soft and frail, rang out to oppose him.

“N-No…!”

Everything seemed to halt as Chihiro made her proclamation, her eyes squeezed shut with unshed tears brimming in the corners of her eyelids. She looked like a frightened rabbit that had decided to face a predator head on. And it was this look that caused Byakuya’s smirk to come crashing down, sinking into an annoyed frown.

“’No’…what?” he demanded, a bit thrown off by the turn of events.

As moisture slipped down her cheeks, Chihiro opened her eyes and stared at everyone as they looked to her.

“I-I…I don’t want to live…if it means that I have to kill someone else to do it,” she said as plainly as she could, choking back sobs. “I…I don’t want to have to kill anyone again!”

The entire room seemed to flinch at her words, not expecting to hear something so horrific from their delicate classmate. Most were just shocked to hear such a thing from her, while others regarded her with instant suspicion.

However, out of all of them, it was Hiro who found the words to ask, “Again…? What, uh, what do you mean by that?”

Furiously wiping away the oncoming tears, Chihiro lifted her gaze up and her blood-shot eyes focused solely on one student in particular…Leon.

“We…we all voted to kill Leon! If not for Junko, he would have died…and it would have been our fault! It would have been no different than us having killed him ourselves!”

Openly sobbing into her hands, Chihiro leaned forward and laid her head down on the table. With her previous statement now becoming clear, the full weight of her burden was made known. Her disheveled appearance and self-loathing attitude began to affect the other students around her.

And none of them felt more at fault than Leon himself. He couldn’t even look at her, clenching his fists and desperately wanting to disappear from the room. He couldn’t even offer a comforting word for her, because he knew it would never be enough. He caused this and he had to accept the consequences of his actions.

While averting his gaze from the weeping girl, he noticed that Byakuya was glaring menacingly at him, as if to put all blame on him. This made the baseball star want to get up and ram his fist into Byakuya’s smug face but he held himself back.

Just as he thought it would be better to try and excuse himself, a familiar voice spoke up.

“Chihiro…listen,” Makoto abruptly spoke up, his voice breaking through her sobs. “You’re not to blame. None of us are. Not you, not Leon, and not Sayaka.”

Barely able to lift her head up, the programmer somehow managed to pull her gaze up to meet her classmates gaze. Even though he was showing obvious signs of exhaustion, Makoto held a determined visage that, even if only for a moment, gave Chihiro a hint of relief.

“The one responsible for all this is the Mastermind,” he continued, not letting his condition get the better of him. “If they hadn’t of put us here, and made us desperate, none of this would have happened. Isn’t that right, Leon?”

At the mention of his name, the baseball star froze as everyone shifted their collective gaze over to him. A feeling of panic rose up in him, remembering when this had happened during his trial, and the subsequent punishment that had followed. Words caught in his throat, whether they were of encouragement for Chihiro or anger at Makoto for putting him back in this position, he really couldn’t tell.

“Uh…um…well…” he choked out his gaze flicking around to everyone that stared at him. It wasn’t until his eyes fell on the disheartened face of Chihiro that he finally stopped.

Tears stained her cheeks and her puffy eyes stared into his, as if begging him for forgiveness. As he drank in that sight, something inside of him seemed to well up. He wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it was quickly dissipating the fear and anxiety that had been keeping him silent this entire time. Seeing Chihiro in such pain just upset him, for reasons that should have been obvious but at the moment, he just couldn’t explain.

“Y-Yeah! Makoto’s right!” Leon abruptly proclaimed, startling everyone as he stood up from his seat. “You guys didn’t do anything wrong! Especially you, Chihiro! I would have done the same thing if I had been in your position! And in the end, none of us wanted this to happen!”

His heartfelt words seemed to penetrate the despair that had been quickly taking over Chihiro, her tears ceasing to flow and her breathing coming back under control. Seeing her begin to calm down, Leon felt his passion starting to wind down as he continued, “So…you know, don’t beat yourself up over this…”

For a moment, Leon thought that he may have just made things worse, as Chihiro didn’t say a single word and just stared at him with a vacant expression. He wasn’t sure what else he could do, and just as he was about to turn away and sit back down, he heard a soft sniffling come from the programmer. Snapping his eyes back to her, he was certain she was about either start crying again but instead, she just stared back him, a strangely serious expression on her reddened face.

“S-So…you don’t hate me…hate us…for what we almost did to you?”

Her voice was shaky and full of fear, as if his answer would determine whether she lived or died. It honestly hurt Leon to hear her ask that but given everything that had happened, he understood why she needed to hear it straight from him. It was very…Chihiro, Leon briefly thought just before he answered.

“Hell no…” he abruptly said, before realizing he sounded a bit too aggressive. “I mean, I’m still alive so…it all works out, right?”

The last thing Leon expected his words to bring were more tears from Chihiro but that’s exactly what he got. As if a dam had burst, moisture poured out of the programmer’s eyes and the baseball star was certain that he’d seriously screwed up again. But then, he heard the tiniest of laughs coming from the weeping girl and he realized her tears were no longer sorrowful.

Chihiro furiously wiped away her tears and, mustering up the biggest smile that she could, she said, “T-Thanks…”

Against his will, Leon felt his face flush and he laughed nervously, pushing away any thoughts of embarrassment. “Y-You’re, uh, welcome…?” he muttered, not knowing what else to do.

Either way, both of them felt much better. Then again, it wasn’t just them. It seemed that almost everyone was less on edge than they’d been a few moments ago. And even if no one else realized it, Leon knew it was all thanks to Makoto. The lucky student was smiling as he saw the two of them make up, despite the tiredness that plagued him.

Leon really didn’t know what it was but Makoto just had this…thing that he could do. And whatever it was, they certainly needed it right now. However, little did the baseball star know that there was one student that had had enough of their happy-go-lucky attitudes.

“Hmph, ‘it all works out’, huh? What a foolish way to look at things.” Again, the arrogant tone of Byakuya interrupted them but he didn’t give them time to react before continuing, “Or are you all forgetting that we still have to decide what to do with the two attempted murderers?”

“We haven’t forgotten, but I do think it’s unfair to decide such a thing right now.” Much to everyone’s surprise, Kyoko finally chose to speak up, effortlessly meeting Byakuya’s stern gaze. With a firm glare of her own, she turned her attention over to the affluent progeny and said, “It’s only fair to wait until we hear what Sayaka has to say. After all, we never got to hear her side of the story.”

“I would like to hear what she has to say as well,” Celeste surprisingly chimed in, a dainty smile on her face. “Understanding Sayaka’s reasoning might prove useful in adapting to living here, wouldn’t you agree?”

“And what’s the point of that?” Byakuya instantly protested, “It won’t change the fact that she betrayed us.”

With a smirk of her own, Kyoko countered, “…True, but that doesn’t mean that we have the right to punish her without at least hearing her story. If we did that, we would be no better than Monokuma—”.

“Did I hear someone call for the Ultra Spectacular Headmaster?”

Before any of them realized it, Monokuma materialized near the entrance to the kitchen. Paws placed on its hips, the bear stood in a heroic position as the students sharply turned to glare. At once, everyone was on guard.

Mondo and Sakura sprang up from their chairs and rushing in front of everyone else, prepared for whatever the bear might try. Taka stood just behind them, prepared to negotiate with the bear if need be. Makoto also stood up, but got dizzy and almost fell back into his seat, exhaustion finally beginning to overwhelm him. Byakuya, Celeste and Kyoko all stared angrily at the automaton, small beads of sweat beginning to form on their foreheads. Toko quickly ducked behind the closest table, muttering about keeping calm.

Chihiro flinched and hid behind the wall that the braver students had formed. Hina also got up from her seat and instantly went to stand just behind Sakura, ready to support her friend however she could. Hiro and Hifumi stayed exactly where they were opting to remain as still as possible, in the hopes of not being noticed. Behind all of them, Junko glared menacingly at the bear, her fists clenched so tight her knuckles turned white.

Far in the back, Leon began to tremble almost uncontrollably. Just seeing Monokuma brought untold fear to him, knowing that his death had almost come at the bear’s hands. He tried to will his body to stop shaking but it was no use. He tried to fight the memory of the bear wielding the baseball bat as the bone-shattering baseballs had crashed into his abdomen, but he was unsuccessful. His hand instinctively clutched the spot where he’d been injured, for protection, and it was all he could do just to remain standing right now.

“No one called for you, you piece of shit bear! So get outta here!” Mondo shouted, cracking his knuckles menacing.

Hearing this, Monokuma lowered its head in mock sadness as it said, “What? Am I not cool enough to be invited to your little tea party?” Suddenly, the bear’s head shot up and it howled with laughter, “Eyohohohoho! Not that I care! I’m more of a coffee drinking bear anyway!”

As Monokuma continued to jeer at them, Sakura took an aggressive step forward and said, “Do you have some business with us? If not, then leave us in peace.”

Strangely enough, even Sakura seemed just a tiny bit shaken by the bear’s sudden appearance. But no one seemed to notice it, or perhaps it was simply understandable considering all they’d witnessed. In either case, Monokuma didn’t seem too bothered by her words and continued on.

“How rude!” the bear shouted at them, it’s face flaring up and it’s claws extending out. “I took time out of my beary busy schedule to come out here and get you all instead of using the intercom and this is the thanks I get? At the very least I expected a bit more respect for coming here personally.”

“If you have a message for us, then out with it. You’re wasting my time,” Byakuya said curtly, his frustration from before leaking into this conversation as well.

“Fine, fine, fine,” Monokuma said carefully before clearing its throat. “Ahem! Attention! Attention! Please gather in the gym at your earliest convenience…meaning right now! That is all.”

As the bear finished, a sense of confusion washed over everyone. Without another word, Monokuma turned to leave but was quickly stopped as a stoic voice called out.

“Hold on a moment,” Kyoko inquired, causing the bear to halt. “If you have a message for us, why not just tell us here? Why make us go to the gym?”

“Oh, now you wanna chat, huh?” Monokuma said, followed by a heavy sigh. “Well, I suppose I could tell you now buuuuuut…” He paused for but a moment before whirling around and shouting, “Since you all seemed so eager to get rid of me I figured I’d make you work for this new info! That’s what you get for being so standoff-ish when your headmaster graces you with his presence.”

“New info? Just what do you—?” Makoto tried to say before the bear snapped at him.

“I already told you…go to the gym if you want the info! Kids these days…can’t even follow simple instructions…this is why unemployment is up…”

Taken aback by Monokuma’s abrasive attitude, no one moved as the bear stormed off into the kitchen, presumably disappearing into some dark hole somewhere. Left standing in their now, awkward positions, the students semi-relaxed as they realized the bear was truly gone, if only for the moment.

“We had best do as he said,” Celeste interrupted the silence, “Besides, I’m rather curious as to what this ‘new info’ could be.”

“It could be a clue to help us find a way out of here!” Hina hopefully proclaimed, trying to cheer everyone up.

“I doubt that,” Junko disagreed, trying, and failing, not to sound negative. “It’s not like we really have a choice anyway.”

“True, but if Monokuma called us all personally, it probably has something to do with our school life,” Kyoko asserted, one hand resting on her chin. “We should put all other discussions on hold until we see what he wants.”

“Agreed!” Taka shouted, trying to take charge again. “We can debate what to do with Sayaka and Leon afterward if we must. But for now, let’s all head to the gym! Single file, please.”

Knowing that there wasn’t too much else they could do about it, they all prepared to depart.

A stern expression came over Byakuya’s face, as he must have realized that now was not the time to continue their earlier debate, especially since they knew how dangerous it was to defy Monokuma’s will. Besides, it probably didn’t really matter to him what they decided to do, his mind was already made up.

As everyone began to file out of the room, hardly anyone realized that Leon remained rooted in place, unable to move. He was still trembling with fear, despite how hard his fists were clenched. He couldn’t move, he was too terrified of what might happen. What if he reversed his decision and decided to execute him? Or worse yet, what if he decided to punish Sayaka instead?!

When he thought of that, Leon didn’t know if he had the strength to take even a single step forward. His head hung down so low he though his body was going to being to droop down to the floor. That’s when a soft voice invaded his ears.

“Hey, Leon?” The baseball star suddenly snapped his head up to see Chihiro standing in front of him, a concerned expression clouding her features. “I know it can’t be easy for you but…try not to worry…okay?” She paused for a moment before giving a nervous smile and saying, “I mean, you said it yourself, you’re still alive right now so…everything will be okay!”

For a moment, Leon stood there, frozen as Chihiro did her best to cheer him up. Her words sank in and little by little, he felt his strength returning. Before he knew it, he discovered that he wasn’t shaking anymore but that wasn’t the strangest part. Oddly enough, this all felt so nostalgic for him, as if this wasn’t the first time she’d cheered him up like this. But there’s no way that could be possible. After all, they’d only met a few days ago and this was the first time they’d really ever spoken to each other.

Pushing away those thoughts, Leon instead focused on his petite classmate and said, “Y-Yeah…thanks.”

It was obvious that he was still pretty freaked out, but at the very least, he felt that he could at least head to the gym with everyone else. Chihiro must have noticed this because she went to his side, patted him on the back, and ushered him forward as she said, “Alright then, we need to catch up to everyone.”

“Right, let’s get going,” Leon agreed, walking beside her as they made their way out of the cafeteria.

Unbeknownst to either of them, standing in the darkness of the kitchen, Monokuma glared at them with a furious expression.


 

“No way…the degradation of the procedure couldn’t happen that fast…can it?” the real Junko Enoshima pondered as she watched Leon and Chihiro through the bear’s eyes. “If this keeps up…how long will it be before…?” she trailed off finishing her sentence in her head but not aloud.

Abruptly standing up, she gave a quick stretch before yawning audibly.

“Eh, who cares?” Glancing over to a pile of folded papers, each bearing a student’s name on them, she chuckled to herself. “After I get finished with them…the whole world’s gonna see the true face of despair!”


 

“Okay! Lift your arms up and down! One, two, three, four!!”

Mukuro fought the urge to roll her eyes with all her might, giving in just as the bear decided to stretch up then reach down and touch its toes. Even more annoying was the fact that, out of all of the students present, the one who was supposed to be their “leader” was actively going along with the physical training.

“One! Two! Three! Four!!” Taka practically shouted as he swept his arms from side to side and bent over to reach his toes.

An exasperated sigh followed Mukuro’s fated eye roll as the soldier was forced to endure her sister’s attempt at increasing tension through means of peaceful activity.

It was rather ingenious really. Everyone had such a negative and fearful opinion of Monokuma that it didn’t matter what he did, they would be cautious and wary of him. Even just calling them there to exercise was viewed with the utmost scrutiny, when in fact, that’s all the bear truly wanted from them. At this point, the ruthlessness of Monokuma was too well-known for any of them to see the animatronic in any other kind of light. Hell, even if the bear offered them the escape switch at this point, more than half of the students wouldn’t trust the gesture, even if the gift was genuine.

It was a cleaver tactic, one that Mukuro had seen on various combat campaigns. Doing something horrifying immediately followed by a kind gesture, it sowed the seeds of confusion amongst enemies and made them more susceptible to deceit. In this case, it was used to put everyone on edge even more than they already were, to push someone closer to actually committing murder.

And if Mukuro hadn’t seen the effectiveness of the tactic first-hand, she wouldn’t have been so fearful. However, knowing that every move her sister made was to provoke them all into making a fatal mistake, the soldier couldn’t fight the uneasy feeling she got as the bear’s exercise regiment finally came to a halt.

“Ahhhhh! Doesn’t that feel great?!” Monokuma panted, sweat somehow leaking from its fur. “Being stuck inside like this means you really need to take care of your health!”

“Y-You’re the one k-keeping us inside,” Toko muttered barely above a whisper.

“Details! Details! That’s not important right now! You need to relax a bit more, embrace life—!”

“Wasn’t there a purpose you’ve called us all here for? Or did you intend to exercise some of us to death?” Byakuya openly mocked, sending a swift glance over to Hifumi, who hadn’t even attempt the routine.

A part of Mukuro almost reeled in disgust at the affluent progeny’s hurtful insults. He had always been aggressive when he was working toward a goal but never like this. And while he certainly could be a heartless bastard, he never took it as far back when they were in school together. It seemed that being forced into a life or death situation had activated his self-preservation instincts.

It was the exact opposite of Makoto…speaking of which, he seemed rather quiet.

Stealing a glance over his way, Mukuro saw him glaring fiercely at Monokuma…or what a physically exhausted person’s could consider a glare. His eyes were reddened and his eyelids sagged. Legs wobbling and fingers digging into his palms to try and stay awake, even a child could tell that he wasn’t going to last much longer.

“Urgh, fine! Listen up, kids!” Monokuma shouted, stealing Mukuro’s attention away from the fading boy. “I called you all here today to let you know that, because you completed a class trial, a whole new world has just opened up for you! Even if the trial didn’t quite go as planned…”

As the obvious disappointment in Monokuma’s voice echoed in the gymnasium, a look of shock spread across each student’s face, but none of them were more shaken than Mukuro.

“W-Wait a second! Junko can’t mean…she’s opening up the second floor!”

Staring, almost completely wide-eyed at the bear, the soldier honestly questioned if what she heard could be true. However, Monokuma, or Junko rather, had never lied to any of them since the killing game had begun. And while Mukuro knew there was cause for Junko to lie to them, no one else could possible know that the Mastermind was taking a huge risk.

The only real question was ‘Why’? Why did Junko decide to do this now? Could it be that her boredom was getting worse and she wanted stimulation? Or perhaps she wanted to give the students more opportunities for murder? It would make sense but it was a pretty risky venture, because there could be clues to what had happened to them on the upper floors.

“Then again…the rules are absolute to Junko. And she did say that after each class trial, the next floor would be opened up. She never specified that an execution needed to take place, just a trail. Does that mean that…Junko isn’t so much taking a risk as she is following the rules?”

It made sense but there was a single flaw in that logic. Until this very moment, Monokuma hadn’t mentioned the rule about opening up a new floor to any of them. The only reason Mukuro knew was because of her previous involvement. There was actually no need to follow through with a rule that hadn’t even been given yet.

Unless…

“Junko…you’re playing the game too. You’re doing it in your own way but you’re still playing the game, the same as us. Which means…you only get to leave if you murder someone and don’t get caught—!”

Mukuro’s breath hitched in her throat and her face paled. A fearsome truth was revisited upon her as she lost the will breathe.

“Is that…is that why she decided to…betray me?!”

The horrible truth was even more despair inducing then she had ever imagined. From the very beginning, she was never meant to leave this place, Junko hadn’t told her the entire plan on purpose. The Despair loving twin had put them both in the game, probably planning to murder her own sister all the while. And since Mukuro would never intentionally bring harm to her sister…she may have even let Junko kill her in order for her sister to survive the game.

And if Makoto hadn’t stepped in and saved her, Junko would have become a blackened without anyone being the wiser. As the numbness of this revelation began to wind down, Mukuro clenched her fists and glared menacingly at the bear.

“Was that it? Was this what you wanted all along Junko?!”

As if to mock her, Monokuma briefly glanced in her direction and even if it was only for an instant, she could have sworn that the bear’s toothy grin widened. Just before the soldier felt she was going to be overtaken by anger, a new thought invaded her mind.

“Wait…but if that’s the case, then Junko failed and…she isn’t a blackened. Which means…!” Mukuro’s gaze abruptly shot out to take in the view of the rest of her classmates. “She still needs to murder one of us…”

It was all becoming clear now. More floors meant more opportunities, not just for the students, but for Junko as well. It leveled the playing field, in a way.

Of course, all of this was going off the assumption that Junko was truly playing the game and wasn’t like Mukuro could just ask her about it, not anymore. After all, it was possible that Junko may stay out of the game entirely…but chances of that were slim, especially with Junko obviously increasing boredom.

Opening up the second floor presented a number of advantages for both parties, and at the same time, it gave Mukuro the advantage as well. There was something on the second floor that could be the key to saving all of them.

“The hidden archive in the boy’s bathroom…”


 

“Have fun exploring your new surroundings!!” Monokuma danced elatedly as it sank behind the podium on the gym stage, completely disappearing from sight and presumably going back into its hole.

Just as quickly as the bear appeared, he departed, saying no more about what he meant by ‘A whole new world’.

Leon wasn’t at all displeased to see the demented bear go. Standing far in the back, putting as much distance between himself and the bear as possible, the baseball star was practically rooted to the floor, sweat trickling down his neck. He’d been so terrified that Monokuma might reverse his sentencing that he barely heard the automaton’s words.

However, the other students were already discussing what the bear’s words could mean.

“‘A whole new world’? What the hell does that mean?” Mondo questioned everyone, trying to make sense of it.

“Could it possibly mean—?” Celeste began before she was abruptly cut off.

“An exit!!” Hina shouted, earning the smallest of huff from Celeste in the process.

“That seems…unlikely.”

“Well we won’t know until we look!” Mondo furiously objected, almost making the gambler flinch. However, she merely scoffed and twirled her hair with her fingers.

“At any rate, it would seem that we should organize another search of the school,” Sakura suggested, trying to ease everyone’s tension.

“Right! Everyone split up and investigate the school! We’ll meet back in the cafeteria once we’re—”.

“H-Hey! Hold on!”

Leon found himself calling out before he even knew what was happening and he instantly wished he hadn’t. The accusatory glares of the class trial were revisited upon him as everyone turned to listen to him. With their gazed all fixated upon him, the baseball star’s throat seemed to swell shut and his voice refused to cooperate.

“What? What do you want?” the harsh voice of Byakuya dug into him, causing him to pant for air.

“W-Well…uh…” he stammered, almost not able to remember why he’d interrupted Taka in the first place. “We…we still haven’t decided who’s gonna watch over Sayaka.”

His voice wasn’t as strong as it usually was, and at first, he wasn’t even sure if anyone had heard him. However, a slow murmur from the other students caught his attention.

“That’s right. We never did decided what to do about that,” Hina remembered, scratching her head nervously. At the same time, an annoyed scoff came from Byakuya as he looked away from Leon.

“Hmph. Honestly, I don’t think we need to have someone watch her at all.” Although they shouldn’t have been, most of the students were surprised by Byakuya’s snide comment. The affluent progeny smirked as he continued, “In fact, if someone did decided to kill her, it would make the game that much more interesting.”

All of a sudden, all the apprehension that Leon felt dissipated as he saw red.

Interesting! You call leaving someone defenseless to die interesting!” Leon’s screams echoed in the room and he clenched his fists tightly. Just before he was about to do something reckless again, a new voice joined the fray.

“How dare you!” Everyone spun around to see Makoto, barely standing, pointing angry at Byakuya. “Even if she did try to kill one of us, she’s still our friend! She made a mistake and you just keep on punishing her for it!”

Completely ignoring Leon for the moment, the affluent progeny turned his full attention over to Makoto.

“And what’s wrong with that?” he jeered, making Makoto flinch. “Criminals should be punished for their crimes. Just because she was a classmate doesn’t excuse her.”

“But she apologized! She…she apologized!!” Makoto sputtered before almost doubling over, panting for breath.

“Makoto!” the voice of Junko rang out, the Fashionista speeding to his side, followed quickly by Hina. Labored breaths came from the semi-conscious boy as he fought off what was probably a wave of dizziness.

“Idiot. He shouldn’t try to argue when he can barely stand,” Byakuya scoffed and turned around, unknowingly coming face to face with Kyoko Kirigiri.

If the affluent progeny was surprised, he didn’t show it, staring down at her without so much as blinking. For a moment they just stood there, fiercely glaring at each other menacingly. But then, almost without him realizing it, Kyoko gave a disappointed huff and slipped past him, as if she didn’t acknowledge him as threat. And although it shouldn’t have bothered him, it was clear by the furrowing of his brows that Byakuya felt more than insulted by the silent gesture.

“Don’t worry, he’s just exhausted from being up all night. He needs rest.” Kyoko told everyone, slowly approaching the circle that had formed around their collapsed friend. “Will someone help carry him to his room?”

When the question was posed, Leon instantly felt like volunteering. He owed Makoto, not just for backing him up now, but for defending him over and over whenever Byakuya insulted him or Sayaka. However, he didn’t get the chance to offer.

“I’ll do it.” Mondo abruptly, and surprisingly, spoke up. He walked over to his exhausted classmate and said, “And after I get him back to his room…I’ll go and watch over Sayaka.”

“As will I,” the deep tones of Sakura concurred, folding her arms and nodding sternly.

“A pointless endeavor—,” Byakuya was barely able to utter before a steely voice cut him off.

“You call ensuring the life of a fellow student pointless?” Kyoko said calmly, not even bothering to turn and look at him. Another annoyed scoff sounded from Byakuya’s throat before he shifted his feet and headed for the door.

“If you all want to waste your time protecting a murderer, then go ahead. I, on the other hand, have more important matters to deal with.”

No one made a move to stop him as he left, allowing him to exit the gym without any further delays. A dense quiet hung over them for a few moments after he’d departed. Tension was rather high and they all knew what it could lead to…

“H-He’s not e-exactly wrong…” Toko said abruptly, fidgeting with her hands as she spoke. “S-Sayaka chose to b-betray us. We don’t kn-know if it won’t happen again.”

Almost as one, the remaining students sent angered looks at the writing prodigy. Not because she’d spoken up, but because they all knew it to be true. Time seemed to grind to a halt as everyone unwillingly let the Affluent Progeny’s words invade their minds. In truth, Byakuya was being the most logical of all of them and that’s what made it so difficult to refute him. Even so, his attitude was doing far more harm than good, both for himself and the rest of them.

“For now, let’s just concentrate on searching the school. We can deal with the other issues after we do that.” Kyoko’s stern voice washed over everyone, seeming to lessen the tension just enough for time to resume for all of them.

Slinging Makoto’s arm over his shoulder, Mondo lifted the semi-conscious boy up enough for his feet to be dragging along the ground. “C’mon, man. Let’s get you to back to your room. You gotta be tired after watching a murderer all night.”

Makoto barely was able to lift his head and the displeased look on his face was expected, but he didn’t have the energy to refute, simply allowing the biker to slug him along and toward the doors.

Leon watched as they exited the room, briefly reminded of their first day here, when he’d helped Sayaka carry the unconscious Makoto to his assigned room. He recalled Sayaka’s kind offer to help him become a better singer, remembered how vibrant her smile was and how her presence filled him with energy. He’d been smitten with her amazing talent and wonderful personality…

But that image was now shattered, not only by what he’d done but because of the realization that, probably right from the start, he and Makoto had been played by her. Well, honestly, Leon wasn’t sure if it had all been a lie or if it had just ended up that way. In either case, her actions didn’t warrant a death sentence and what he’d almost done was far worse than what she’d attempted.

It was almost unbelievable…that he had almost taken her from the world completely.

“Hard to believe it was only a few days ago that we talked about changing my title…” he quietly thought, his head lowering and his hands balling into fists. “How could everything have gotten so fucked up in only a few days?!”

Before he had time to self-loath any more, an authoritative voice shouted to all of them.

“Alright then!” Taka once again stepped up, trying to make sense of this chaos. “Once we finish investigating, we’ll meet in the cafeteria! Dismissed!”

With little else he could do, Leon followed everyone out of the gym to begin their investigation.


 

“Well, this is fan-fucking-tastic…” Mukuro sat alone in one of the stalls of the second floor girl’s bathroom, seething. “What was I thinking?! ‘Oh, I’d better go check the bathroom’. Like that was going to get one of the guys to check out the boy’s restroom.”

Upon arriving up on the second floor, Mukuro thought that, if she decided to investigate the girl’s room, then one of the boys would undoubtedly do the same. Unfortunately, as she headed into the restroom, out of the corner of her eyes, she saw all of them walking away without even glancing back.

She even thought she heard one of the guys say, “She must have been holding it or something.”

Apparently, she had vastly overestimated the intelligence of her male classmates. Then again, a part of her had to be reminded that, even if they were in a live-or-die situation, not many of her classmates could pick up on subtle hints…or even obvious ones.

“Then again…I have no idea why I thought this would work,” she muttered, leaning to the side and resting her head against the wall. “This is gonna be harder than I thought.”

Everyone had split up into groups to investigate the new developments in the school.

Taka decided to stay on the first floor to investigate if anything on that floor may have changed, with Mondo and Sakura keeping watch over Sayaka. Hina, Celeste and Leon headed off toward the direction of the pool, with this being confirmed when Mukuro heard Hina’s elated shouts all the way in her stall. Kyoko, Hifumi, Toko and Chihiro were traveling as a group and had headed off toward the library. They were probably there now. Hiro was probably wandering around aimlessly, ducking into a classroom or something.

Byakuya had probably ascended to the second floor after he left the gym, and probably had found the library by now. He spent so much time there even when they were in school together, so she wouldn’t doubt that’s where he’d be.

The second floor didn’t have much there, compared to the other floors, because the pool and library took up so much space that there wasn’t much room for anything other than a few small classrooms. At this rate, the investigation would be over rather quickly…and Mukuro may lose her chance to help one of the boys “discover” the hidden room in the boy’s restroom.

“Uhg…Why the hell can’t they just go in there and look around?! I know they have no reason to but there isn’t much I can do! It’s not like I can go in there! Junko’s gonna be watching me like a hawk. The only way I’m getting in there is if a boy…takes…me…”

As her words trailed off, she pushed away from the wall she’d rested against, an uncomfortable look on her face.

“If I can trust what Junko once told me, the only time a boy takes a girl into a restroom…is for sex! Anything can happen during sex! I can suggest going to the far back, and when I decided to get a little rough…we’ll accidently find the hidden room! That’s it!” she exclaimed, pleased that she finally had some kind of plan.

However, it took all of two seconds for her mind to register exactly what she just planned, and when it did, she almost blanched.

“…I don’t know anything about sex!” she horrifically realized, slapping her palm against her forehead.

Mukuro was a tactical genius when it came to combat and self-preservation, but because of this, she had never been physical with anyone. She’d never kissed or initiated sexual activities with someone. Hell, she’d never even hugged her sister before! Then again, Junko was never a huggy kind of sibling. Yeah, Mukuro was a soldier and was quick on her feet when she needed to be but this was a whole other kind of “close quarters combat”!

Not to mention that, despite being in a mercenary squad with a number of physically appealing men, she had absolutely no interest in pursuing sexual activities. In fact, she was the only member of Fenrir who didn’t prefer to cool down from a life-threatening mission by “relieving tension” with another squad mate. Many of the other female members did but she preferred to exercise or clean her equipment instead. She never imagined that refusing to learn sexual techniques would be what stopped her from being able to complete this mission!

“And there’s a lot at risk, too.” Mukuro hung her head and sighed heavily. “Even if I’m able to do this properly, because I have to pretend to be Junko…I can’t be as aggressive as I would like. Which means, I may not be able to forcibly ‘discover’ the hidden room! And if that happens…and I really do go all the way…with one of the boys…”

That thought alone was terrifying, not because she thought her male classmates were unappealing, but because it could be dangerous in this kind of scenario. She’d need protection but there was no time to go and search the nurse’s office for it…which was currently occupied. Plus, knowing her sister, the only rubbers that she would have stocked were the eerie Monokuma condoms with the Monokuma headed tips that had a 90% fail rate! Which Junko had been so proud were released before The World’s Most Despair Inducing Event had taken place.

Mukuro considered that she could do it raw but then the idea of getting pregnant was a major factor and she was not going to let that happen!

“Junko always said that pregnancy was a whole different kind of despair that even she wasn’t ready for…”

However, if Mukuro didn’t at least attempt to seduce any of the boys, they may never be able to find the hidden room in the boy’s restroom. This mission was turning into a nightmare that she wasn’t sure she could handle! This is why she preferred to be a soldier who followed orders rather than one who came up plans!

Shaking her head furiously, she paused and slapped her cheeks with both hands.

“I can’t just give up before even trying! This is the best chance I have and I can’t let myself worry about this kind of thing right now! However…” she grew quiet as the most difficult part of this plan had yet to be decided. “If I have to do this…w-who should it be with?”

Mukuro suppressed a shudder as all of her choices flashed through her mind, weakening her resolve slightly as she was forced to go through them one by one.

“Byakuya will never trust me…and…just no. Even if he was the Byakuya from before, there’s no way.” She crossed him off her mental list and continued, “Mondo wouldn’t be a horribly bad choice…except that if I prove I’m stronger than him he’ll know something’s wrong and that could lead to issues...” Scratching him off as well, she moved on. “Then there’s Taka…but there’s no way Mr. Honor Student’s gonna go for that! Even if he did…he’d have to take off those god-awful boots before I get anywhere near him—oh, god now I’m sounding like Junko!”

A twisted feeling of disgust wormed it’s way through Mukuro but she managed to fight it off. With three candidates down, the soldier plugged along with her remaining choices.

“There’s always Chihiro—wait, they still don’t know she’s physically a boy. Dammit, she was one of the better choices!” she seethed as she was forced to move on. “And then there’s Hiro………..” A bit of bile leapt up in her throat as she decided to keep pondering. “Hifumi would be far too interested in the 2D to actually go through with it…though if I cosplayed…no, I don’t have the time for that!”

Her options were seriously winding down now. And so, with only two possibilities left, she finally came to the choice she wanted to make but knew she couldn’t.

“Makoto…I’d be willing…more than willing actually but, he never would be. Besides, he’s asleep and I’m not waking him up for my stupid plan!” she unfortunately surmised, leaving her with only a single option remaining.

“With what happened with Sayaka, I doubt that Leon would be willing to go into a room alone with me. Then again, I did save him from execution…perhaps a little bribery for coming to his rescue is in order…”

As her words echoed in the small bathroom, Mukuro had no idea of the miniature microphone that was hanging from the ceiling.


 

Far above her, shut up tight in the camera monitor room, Junko was practically giddy as she listened to her sister’s “plan”. Stuffing her face with popcorn and sipping a large soda, the Ultimate Despair girl couldn’t stop herself from roaring as Mukuro continued to prattle on.

“S-She has no idea…I’m putting this audio in the broadcast!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”


 

The second floor was far more spacious than the first but that was to be expected of a higher floor, especially considering there were two larger rooms making up half the floor.

Leon wandered through the hallway past the pool area, having poked his head in to see Hina practically begging Celeste to join her for a swim. He left before they really noticed him. As much as it disheartened him, he knew keeping his distance from everyone was best for now. Traversing down the open corridor next to the library, he pondered what he should do next.

Hearing voices from within the library, he decided to steer clear for the time being, especially since he was pretty sure he heard Byakuya’s condescending tone coming from within. Moving to the end of the hallway, he opened up the doors to both of the classrooms but found all the windows sealed, just like on the first floor. With nothing left to investigate, he returned to the large corridor outside the library, pacing back and forth for what seemed like hours.

Growing tired of pacing, he glanced over at the metal plates on the wall, moved over and knocked on them a couple times. Just for good measure, he placed his fingers on the edge of the metal sheet and pulled, but it didn’t budge in the slightest.

“There’s no way we’re getting through that…” His sullen voice echoed down the hall, sounding defeated for several reasons.

A multitude of chairs were lined against the wall and, tired from all his “exploration”, the ballplayer sank down into one of them, resting his head against one of the window blocking plates. Staring up at the ceiling, Leon could help but feel more alone than he’d ever been before.

“That’s to be expected though…considering what I tried to do,” he whispered to himself, letting one hand rest over his face, fingers rubbing at his tired eyes.

“Hey, Leon?”

A familiar voice called to him, bringing him back to attentiveness. Leaning forward, he turned toward the voice to see none other than his savior, Junko, heading straight for him.

“Oh…hey Junko,” he answered almost on reflex, “What’s up?”

The Fashionista held a weary look on her face as she marched over to him. For a second it seemed that she had something to say to him but as she got closer, that notion appeared to vanish as she looked him over. The once over she was giving him sent waves of embarrassment through him, so he averted his gaze to keep from showing his flustered appearance. Besides, he could only imagine how pathetic he looked at that moment.

“What are you doing out here by yourself?” Junko suddenly asked, her soft tone almost startling the ballplayer. He lifted his gaze up to see her nervously smirking down at him. “Finished ‘exploring’ already?”

Her tone was light and if they hadn’t been in such a horrific situation, Leon almost would have thought she was kinda flirting with him. However, despite telling himself it probably wasn’t the case, the baseball star felt that she was only talking to him out of pity, which agitated him even more. His sullen look shifted to frustration as he jerked his gaze away and said, “Yeah, something like that. So, what do you want?”

The sound of a shifting chair reached his ears and on instinct he turned back to see Junko pull up a chair right next to him. Plopping down in the seat, she crossed her legs and stared up at the ceiling. Neither of them said anything for a good fifteen seconds before the Fashionista let out an exasperated sigh.

“You know; if you’ve got something to say, just spit it out.”

Leon noiselessly gasped as those words reached his ears. Not only because of the bluntness but because her tone had shifted dramatically. It was just like the time he and Hiro had been holding her up outside the cafeteria. She sounded…stronger? He wasn’t quite sure how to really describe it. It was almost as if she was letting out some kind of inner personality, one that she was rarely able to use. Or possibly allowed to use.

“Bottling things up will only make it harder on you, ya know?” the Fashionista continued despite his shock, her voice still radiating strength and power. It was so overbearing that Leon almost felt unable to respond.

“What’s the point?” he finally muttered, hanging his head to avoid looking at her. “It’s not like anything I say really matters at this point—”.

“Don’t be so naïve,” her sharp tone cut him off, forcing his gaze to shoot back up to her. “Just because you made a mistake doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to talk about it. Believe me…there are a lot, and I mean a lot, of things I want to say to a bunch of people…but I can’t now. Even if it doesn’t make sense or you think I won’t understand, just say it anyway.”

For a long time, there was a thick silence between them. It was so quiet that they both heard the light ringing of silence in the air. Gripping the edge of his chair, Leon was about to blow her off and walk away when she caught him by surprise.

“Trust me, talking about it will make things easier for you. And if I’m the only one who’s willing to listen, then I guess now’s the best time to do it. So, like it or not, I’m not going anywhere until you get it all out. Got it?”

Glancing over to him, she let a reassuring smirk overtake her features, proving that she meant it. As if her words themselves were penetrating him, Leon felt his pent up aggressions and regrets beginning to burst through, and before he knew it, he just began speaking.

“I…I just don’t know what to do anymore! I’ve done something that no one should forgive me for! And at the same time…I do want to be forgiven for it!” he seethed but kept his voice low, so as not to draw the attention of any nearby students. “But I know that there isn’t anything I can do about it! I feel so hopelessly powerless! I don’t know what I should be doing!”

He paused for a moment to catch his breath, and when he did, moisture began to accumulate in the corners of his eyes.

“And the worst part is…a part of me agrees with that bastard Byakuya. Even now…I can’t see myself as anything less than a murderer. I tried to cover up my crime and, even though I had no idea it could get everyone else killed, when I did find out, all I cared about was my own survival. And I…and I…”

Squeezing his eyes shut, tears slipped down his cheeks only to be furiously wiped away by his sleeve. Taking a few deep breaths, he managed to compose himself enough to continue.

“I…I just…don’t know what to do anymore…” he finished, not knowing what else to say.

His heavy breathings echoed in the long corridor and it was fortunate that no one had decided to come their way. Not only was this probably the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he’d broken down in front of Junko of all people, the girl that had saved his life. Still wiping away tears from his reddened face, he slowly shifted his gaze over to see the Fashionista again staring up at the ceiling, a stoic look on her face.

“Get it all out?” she abruptly asked, still not turning toward him.

“H-Huh?” he sputtered for a moment before clearing his throat and thinking about it. “I-I guess…”

“Good,” Junko said sharply before folding her arms and glaring at him. “Now let me tell you why you’re wrong.”

Visibly taken aback by her blunt comment, Leon almost fell out of his chair as Junko swiveled over to face him directly, staring him square in the eyes.

“But first, let me ask you a question. Who was it that saved Sayaka?”

The question startled him more than her previous statement and he struggled to answer, “W-Wha-? Well, you obviously—”.

“Wrong again.”

Her tone was only the slightest bit condescending but it was enough to snap the weary Leon out of his pity party, his fists clenched as he glared furiously at her. “And what the hell do you mean by that, huh?! I wasn’t the one who carried her to the nurse’s office or did the transfusion thing—!”

“But you were the one who tended to her and bandaged her right after she was cut!” Junko spoke over him, practically jumping to her feet and glaring down at him. “If you hadn’t of reacted so quickly, she would have bled out long before I got to her. The reason she’s alive is because of you. Not me…You.”

Leon’s eyes widened as Junko forced her opinions on him. He wanted to argue with her, wanted to tell her that even though what she was saying was true, he just couldn’t bring himself to believe it. Frozen in place after hearing that, he was unable to stop Junko from continuing.

“No matter what you think, no matter how hard it is for you to believe…You are not a murderer.” He flinched as she emphasized that but didn’t stop her. “Murderers don’t try to save their victims, and they don’t feel regret for what they did or feel responsible to those around them for it.”

“B-But! I tried to cover it all up! I was only thinking of myself!” Leon tried to counter but only received a scoff from the Fashionista.

“And you think that none of us would have done the same in your position? We’re human, we do that when we’re scared,” she said before a light smile graced her lips. “Besides, by my count, you’ve saved more people than you’ve killed.”

“But…But…!!”

Before he knew what was happening, Junko’s hands landed on either side of his shoulders. As her nail dug in slightly, Leon found himself staring up at her, unable to look away.

“Honestly, we’ve all been pretty lucky. If just one thing had gone wrong for any of us…we’d all be dead now. You, me…and Sayaka.”

She paused for a moment, as if trying to block out the horrific memory that came with such a statement. However, it appeared that she was able to push it away as she turned back to him and said, “Even so, we’re all still alive. And we need to focus on what we can do now. And not just you, me and Sayaka. Everyone’s in the same boat here. We’re all just trying to do our best to make it through all this bullshit.”

Although unaccustomed to hearing such vulgar language from her, something about the way she said it didn’t bother Leon. In fact, it felt almost natural for her to speak this way, though he couldn’t understand why. Instead of worry about it, he chose to stay quiet and continue listening as she spoke.

“I know it’s not easy…but you have to get it through your head that none of this is your fault. We’re not here because we want to be. You didn’t hurt Sayaka because you wanted to. And you didn’t betray us out of spite or anything like that.”

Junko’s voice was as stern and strong as it had been before but this time, there was a hint of concern in it as well. Each word, each syllable she spoke, they resonated with him as he was unable to turn away.

“We need to work together to survive whatever the mastermind has planned. Learn from what happened to you and Sayaka to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. It’s the only way we’re gonna make it out of this alive. Understand?”

An eternity seemed to pass as Leon’s crystal blue eyes stared up at the Fashionista, his mind barely able to comprehend everything she was telling him. His body felt lighter than it ever had before as she forced him to realize the depths of his own self-deprecation. Her words were so…hopeful. Never in his wildest dreams would he ever have thought that Junko Enoshima of all people would be the one to help bring him back from the edge of despair.

“Then again, she was the one who saved me…Oh!”

An unexpected laugh came bubbling up from his throat and he chuckled nervously as finally he let a weak smile spread across his features.

“You know, I’ve been a bit of an asshole to you. I’ve had plenty of chances but I guess I’ve been putting it off,” he said with another light chuckle. Now it was Junko’s turn to be taken back, raising an eyebrow as he continued, “I never thanked you for being coming to my rescue yesterday. If not for you, I wouldn’t even be here right now. So, yeah…Thanks!”

A puzzled look overtook Junko’s face but it only lasted a moment before she let out a laugh of her own.

“See, was that so hard?” she chided with a smirk. Releasing his shoulders and giving him a light slap on the back, she plopped back down in her chair next to him, grinning all the while.

Staring at her unmatched smile, Leon felt all of tensions slowly slipping away. It was only now that he realized just how little he’d really known about Junko, or any of his classmates for that matter. It was also the first time he recognized forming a bond with any of them. Sure, he’d spoken to Makoto about his dream of quitting baseball but this was different.

He felt a connection to Junko, like he could actually believe in her and trust what she was saying. Not just because she’d saved him, but because it seemed like, out of all of his classmates, she was the first one to completely forgive him for what he’d tried to do. And he didn’t know how, but someday, he would return the favor.

“Seriously though…I owe you for saving my life. You’re a great friend, Junko.”

The instant those words came out of his mouth, Junko tensed. It was as if she just remembered something incredibly important just now. And less than a second later, the way she looked at him changed.

Really?” she said, almost too sweetly. “Well, I know a way that I can be an even better friend to you…”

Her smirk returned but this time it seemed wider than before…Leon wasn’t quite sure but there was something a bit mischievous behind it. However, he reminded himself that, despite just discovering that she could be serious when she needed to be, the Fashionista did have a bit of a sarcastic streak.

Rubbing the back of his head nervously, he chuckled as he replied, “You saved me from being pounded with baseballs to death. What better of a friend could you be?”

The tiniest of groans came from Junko, so slight that Leon wasn’t even sure he’d really heard it.

“Well, you know, I could do more kind of friendly like stuff for you…if you want,” she offered, uncrossing her legs and turning toward him with an expecting glance.

“Hmm, I don’t know,” he pondered aloud, trying not to sound ungrateful. “I mean, sure it’d be cool to hang out more but I’m into video games and punk-rock and stuff. Not exactly the kind of thing you’d be into.”

Now Leon was sure he’d inadvertently upset her because Junko took in a deep breath before letting it out slowly, more than likely offended by something that he’d done. Even if he had no idea what it was, it didn’t really matter. Instead, he decided that whatever she said next, he’d agree with, just to be safe.

As luck would have it, Junko carefully lifted one of her manicured hands up to her blouse and unbuttoned the very top button, giving a better view of the lacy bra underneath. However, because this wasn’t entirely abnormal for her, Leon hardly noticed it.

“Ah, is it just me or is it really hot up here on the second floor?” she asked him, fanning herself while sneaking glances at him.

Even though he didn’t think it was very hot at all, in fact it was a bit cold, Leon decided to stick to his plan and immediately complied, “Oh, yeah! It’s like sweltering hot! Must be because of the pool and it’s humidity…and stuff…”

The sound of a slap reached his ears and Leon looked over to see Junko palm had slapped against her forehead, a deep groan sounding from her throat. The baseball star slowly leaned away, unsure of what he’d done to upset her so much.

“Seriously, what did I do?” he questioned mentally, not wanting to ruin the newfound friendship with her. “I’ve never been good with girls…unless they’re screaming fans but I didn’t have to actually talk to most of them.”

Just as he was about to suggest looking around some more, Junko sprang up to her feet and turned completely toward him. Her hands rested on her hips and she leaned down to look him in the eye.

“Leon, I know this is sudden but will you take me to the guy’s—”.

“Everyone! Please come quickly!!”


 

“…Sorry but the way it is now, it can’t even power on.”

Chihiro sat at one of the desks in the library, a blank screened laptop resting before her. Peering over her shoulder, Kyoko pressed a hand to her lips and sighed.

“I’d have hoped to find some useful information but it seems we’re out of luck,” she expressed aloud before nodding appreciatively to the programmer. “Anyway, thanks for trying.”

“Not a problem…” Chihiro answered softly, her eyes still focused on the dead laptop.

The sounds of Kyoko’s footstep alerted the programmer that she was now alone with the computer, her mind already running scenarios about how and why it wasn’t functioning…and what could be done to restore it.

“I do have the toolkit in my room,” she considered, her hands running over the dusty keys of the board. “And if the battery is still good, then maybe—”.

“Everyone! Please come quickly!!”

As a deep voice echoed throughout the upper floor, the petite programmer’s heart practically leapt into her throat as she shot up from her seat, a feeling of terror consuming her thoughts. Looking around she found that the other students, led by Byakuya, who had made the library his dominion, were already heading out the door and into the hallway, from which the frantic shout had originated.

Not wanting to be left behind, Chihiro sped around the side of the desk but came to a grinding halt. Slowly, she turned her head around to gaze at the lifeless laptop…


 

The Fashionista froze as a deep but feminine voice shouted down the hallway. As one, both she and Leon turned to see none other than Sakura racing down the hallway. If Taka had been there, he’d have been writing her up for running but now wasn’t the time to worry about that!

“Sakura! What’s wrong?!” Junko immediately questioned, stopping the martial artist in her tracks. Sakura turned to them, only now noticing they were there.

“Ah, Junko! Leon! We need to gather everyone together as soon as possible! It’s Sayaka—!”

Untold fear had already gripped Leon at the sight of Sakura’s flustered and rushed appearance, knowing she would never abandon her post unless it was truly an emergency. And the instant the Pop Idol’s name left her lips, Leon leapt up from his chair and shouted, “What is it?! What about Sayaka?! Did something happen to her?!”

Sakura must have seen the sheer panic on the ballplayer’s face and it made her hesitate for an instant before she answered, “Sayaka…she’s—”.

“What’s going on out here?!” an unmistakably authoritative voice called out. The three students turned to see the door to the library abruptly open and none were surprised to see it was Byakuya that had called out to them. Lingering just behind him were Kyoko, Hifumi, Toko and finally Chihiro.

“Is there a fire or something?” Hiro’s lazy tone came from the other side of the hallway, an open classroom door showing where he’d been.

“What is all the fuss about?” the calm voice of Celeste now intruded onto the scene. Coming from the pool hallway, she walked toward the group with Hina rushing past her to greet her friend.

“Sakura! What’s going on?!” the swimmer asked, a hint of fear in her voice.

“That’s exactly what I’d like to know,” Byakuya demanded again, “Why are all of you out here and why is Sakura—?”

“EVERYBODY JUST SHUT UP!!!”

All at once, everyone was quiet as Leon practically screamed at all of them. Even Byakuya was shocked into silence as the Ultimate Baseball Star whirled around and shouted at Sakura again.

“What’s happened to Sayaka?!! Tell me!!”

His strained voice held more fear than any of them had ever heard from him before. Not even his tearful pleas during the trial sounded as despairing as his tone did now. And in that moment, no one, not even the condescending Byakuya, could refute the idea that Leon was genuinely worried for Sayaka.

Realizing that she had caused a panic, Sakura immediately composed herself and answered, “Do not fear…she is alright.”

Letting out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, Leon couldn’t stop the overly joyous smile from spreading over his face. He was too overjoyed to even ask why Sakura had come running to them with such haste. Luckily, someone else was ready for it.

“If you don’t mind, I’m still quite lost as to what’s happening,” Celeste said plainly, glancing over to Sakura with a curious expression. “Has something happened that we are unaware of?”

“Hm,” Sakura confirmed with a firm nod. “Just a moment ago, Sayaka regained consciousness.”

A wave of shock washed over all of the students for a moment but they all quickly recovered. However, one of them was already off and running the moment he heard the news.

“Sayaka!”

Leon tore down the hallway without any regard for anyone else, practically leaping down the stairs the instant he got to them. Byakuya groaned and was about to complain when someone else left the group as well.

“L-Leon! Wait up!” a stammering Chihiro called out, following after him. Again, no one made a move to stop her and simply watched as she headed down the hall toward the stairs.

“H-Hey! Don’t leave us here like that! Come on, Sakura!” Hina shouted after Chihiro, gripping the martial artists arm and pulling her along as they headed off as well.

“Hey! Wait for me, guys! I wanna go too!” Hiro called after them, obviously not wanting to be left out.

“It’s like herding chickens…” Byakuya quipped, rubbing his eyes under his glasses.

“Indeed…” Celeste agreed, letting out a sigh of her own. “We haven’t even finished investigating the second floor yet.”

“Given the circumstances, we should put the investigation on hold,” Kyoko calmly advised, ignoring the stare the gambler was giving her. “For now, we’d better go and see Sayaka.”

Without another word, Kyoko’s heeled boots clicked along the ground as she departed.

“…I, unfortunately, must agree with her. Besides, I have some things I wish to speak with Sayaka about anyway,” Celeste conceded, slowly making her way toward the stairs.

“As do I…” Byakuya added, narrowing his gaze as he also departed.

At this time, no one noticed that Junko was still standing by her chair next to the metal plated window, her fists clenched and her eyes downcast.


 

“Fuck…” Mukuro seethed as she realized she was the only one still there. “I guess I ran out of time. Dammit, I almost had him! I never thought that Sayaka would wake up so soon! I mean, I’m glad she’s awake and all that but if she had just stayed asleep for a few more minutes…”

As the reality of her failure loomed over head, the soldier couldn’t stop the frustration from boiling over inside her.

“Dammit! Why couldn’t Leon have just gotten the hint?! I did everything I could think of get him to realize I wanted sex! I left subtle and not so subtle hints, I spoke sweetly to him, I even uncrossed my legs right in front of him and everything!”

Her crimson nails dug into her palms as she seethed, trying not to let out her fury.

“And what’s worse, because he didn’t get the hint, I failed my mission! This is the first mission I’ve ever failed! My perfect record is now stained with defeat!!”

Without warning, she slammed her fist into the metal plate next to her, leaving a hardly noticeable indent in the metal. Letting her hand fall from the plate and hanging limp at her side, Mukuro realized how foolish her idea really way.

“I need a better plan…” she said quietly, sounding a little defeated. “But that can wait for later. I need to go and see Sayaka before the others realize I’m not there.”

Taking deep breaths to keep herself calm, she only now began walking toward the stairs, her boots practically slamming down with each step. Just before she reached them, she stopped just in front of the boy’s restroom. She was more than tempted to go inside and just make up something later about why she was in there but she knew it was pointless.

“I’d look too suspicious…and if I accidentally reveal myself,” she muttered quietly, her voice lower than a whisper. “Besides, I can’t be gone too long or else they’ll get suspicious anyway. Guess I’ll have to give on it…for now.”

Regrettably resigning herself to failing the mission, Mukuro trudged down the stairs, unaware of the camera that had been watching her every move.


 

Meanwhile, back in the control room on the upper floor, the real Junko silently watched as her sister descended the stairs. Slurping down the very last of her soda, Junko let out an exasperated sigh as she watched her sister’s pitiful attitude upon her inability to seduce Leon.

Another deep sigh escaped her as she said, “Mukuro, Mukuro, Mukuro…don’t you know anything? The most powerful weapon at her disposal is built-into her and she doesn’t even know how to use it!”

Putting her feet up on the table, she stretched her arms up before putting them behind her head and continuing, “I know that I told her before but…women have the almighty vagina. Therefore, we make the rules. If she had just said, ‘Hey Leon, let’s have sex’, she’d probably already be in the boy’s restroom fucking like rabbits…”

Tossing away her empty soda can, the Despair loving girl giggled to herself as she watched everyone gather in the nurse’s office. A twisted smile spread over Junko’s lips as she prepared for the ensuing despair.

“Oh well, at least this little reunion should be good…”


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

Almost unsurprisingly, as the students approached the nurse’s office, they found Leon standing just outside the doors, staring at them with a look of what might seem like panic. He’d come there in such a hurry that he hadn’t really thought about what he’d do when he arrived. It was almost as if some invisible force kept him rooted to the ground, preventing him from opening the door and crossing that threshold.

Chihiro and Hina, who had followed after him, felt a twinge of guilt just looking at him, unable to bring themselves to disturb him. However, their gesture of kindness was shattered when Byakuya ruthlessly brushed past them and advanced toward the office door, coming to a halt directly beside the petrified Leon.

“Move. You’re blocking the way.”

The affluent progeny’s stern order made the ballplayer flinch but he didn’t move, just turned his head slowly to stare at Byakuya. Before he managed to find the courage to retort, Kyoko appeared to the side of him.

“If you’d rather stay out here, that’s fine. No one will force you to go in,” her expression seemed to harden a bit as she continued; “However, if you keep running from this, you’ll never be able to face it.”

Gritting his teeth, Leon couldn’t help but seethe, “I-I know that…but I just…”

In that moment of hesitation, Byakuya shouldered his way past the ballplayer, and grasped the door handle. “Stay out here and writhe in your misery then. It seems to be all you’re capable of anyway.”

Leon opened his mouth to shout at him but no words came forth. His breath caught in his throat as he realized that, as loathsome as it was, Byakuya was correct. He’d done nothing but sulk and drag others down with him since he’d survived the trial. Even now, when he should have been elated that Sayaka was awake, all he felt was the crushing guilt that he feared would never leave.

As he stood there, unable to move, Byakuya pulled open the door and went inside, many of his fellow students following his lead. Chihiro and Hina were the very last to enter, both of them lingering their gazes on him as they went in, leaving Leon alone in the hallway. Well, not exactly alone, as one last student came down the stairway and saw him.

“Eh? Leon? What’s wrong?”

The ballplayer lifted his gaze to see Junko, whom must have fallen behind, only now making her way over to him. She seemed a bit flustered but then again, she’d probably been trying to catch up to them and it seemed a bit tough with those heeled knee-high boots.

Even before he had the chance to explain himself, Junko raised a hand to stop him. “What did I tell you about that sulking crap?”

“…Yeah, I know,” he answered hesitantly, feeling embarrassed to be scolded by her again.

With a light sigh, Junko stepped closer and slapped him on the back. “Good. Now, let’s go see Sayaka so we can tell her about how she owes you her life because you saved her and junk. Alright?”

“Wait, what—?!” Leon stammered but had no time to react before Junko shoved him into the nurse’s office.


 

No one was quite sure what to expect when they threw open the doors to the nurse’s office. However, as they all piled into the small medical room, they realized that it really didn’t matter all that much.

Sayaka was sitting up in her bed, a pillow against her back as she leaned against the metal head-board of the bed. Interestingly, she had Mondo’s coat draped over her shoulders, the end of it hanging off the side of the bed. However, it quickly became clear that the reason for it was that she wasn’t wearing anything underneath said coat, her clothes having been discarded when she’d been bandaged the day before.

“…Uh…Hi, everybody…”

Sayaka’s voice was soft but strong, a little bit hoarse from inactivity but at the very least, she sounded much better than yesterday. Even so, her usual sweetness was missing, replaced with an obvious sense of dread. Then again, with everyone staring at her, some of them accusatorily, her fears were well founded.

“Hey, uh, what’s with the coat?” an insensitive Hiro blurted out. Seeing him staring, Sayaka tugged the edges of the coat inward, flinching almost in disgust as she tried to ensure her chest was fully covered.

Leaning against the wall next to the bed, a tank-top clad Mondo raised his eyebrows and was the first to glare at him but he couldn’t hide the somewhat embarrassed look on his face as well. “What?! She didn’t have any clothes and for some stupid reason, there aren’t any of those uncomfortable hospital robes in here!”

“Oh, I see!” Hiro said with a short laugh, “I guess things are awkward enough, without her being naked on top of that!”

Oblivious to the aggravation he was causing, the clairvoyant was about to get reprimanded by Hina when suddenly, someone began pushing through the crowd. Or rather, Junko was pushing Leon through the crowd. The baseball star was squirming and trying to grab onto anything and anyone to stop the forced advance but each time his arms were smacked away by the Fashionista.

With one last powerful shove, Leon was spun around and pushed out in front of everyone. Barely able to maintain his footing, the ballplayer froze as he realized he’d come to halt just in front of Sayaka’s bed. His gaze inadvertently fell upon the injured pop idol and Sayaka, in turn, flinched as he appeared before her.

“L-Leon…”

The words were almost choked out of Sayaka, a lump forming in her throat at just the sight of him. Little did she know that, just like her, Leon had broken out into a cold sweat, but was unable to turn away from her.

“H-Hey…Sayaka…”

For a long while they remained motionless, unable to turn away but incapable of speaking either. Both of them had so many things to say but neither of them knew how to say them. And even if they did, there was no way to deny that something sacred had been broken between them. Thankfully for both of them, a new distract suddenly burst onto the scene.

“Sayaka! You’re awake!”

Leon whirled around and Sayaka blanched as Makoto abruptly made his way through the crowd at the door. He was out of breath, hair and clothes were disheveled, eyes reddened with heavy sacks under each eyelid. The exhaustion was still taking a toll on him. Even so, he still wore one of the brightest smiles either of them had ever seen.

“Are you in any pain? Are you sure it’s okay to be sitting up like that? Do your bandages need to be changed? Are you hungry? Do you need another pillow—?”

In the middle of his rapid-fire question, a feminine hand grasped his shoulder and pulled him back a bit.

“Down Makoto,” Junko said almost jokingly, pushing past him and moving toward Sayaka. “If it’s okay, I’d like to check your bandages and see if anything needs to be done. Okay?”

“Huh? Why would…” Sayaka trailed off, pure confusion warping the idol’s face.

For a stretch of time, the pop idol just stared at Junko, as if she was unable to understand how or even why the Fashionista would want to do something as gritty as that. The look on her face brought a realization to Junko, who slightly frowned.

“Oh, that’s right…you still don’t know what happened yesterday…” Junko said aloud, so that everyone would be aware of it.

A feeling of gloom fell over the area, as the events of the previous day hung heavy in all their minds. Particularly, Leon and Makoto flinched and averted their gazes from each other, still not quite able to speak about what had transpired. Only Byakuya, Celeste and Kyoko, seemed to keep their emotions in check, appearing unaffected as much as possible.

All the while, sitting in her bed with a perplexed look, Sayaka felt a sense of oncoming dread and she was barely able to ask, “What…what happened…?”

As if a knife had cut through them, everyone froze and kept their mouths shut, afraid of what telling her might mean. And as the silence dug in, Sayaka knew that she had done something far worse than just attempt to murder and frame someone. Before she found the strength to ask them again, a stoic voice broke the silence.

“Before we tell you that, I think we should do as Junko suggested and have you checked for any further injuries. While that’s going on, we can fill you in on exactly what transpired yesterday,” Kyoko reasoned, her logic easing the tension slightly.

“That’s fine,” everyone was surprised to hear such a thing come from Byakuya. The affluent progeny unfolded his arms and turned his back. “It wouldn’t do to have her be unaware of her crimes before deciding her fate.”

Sayaka noticeable tensed at his words but said nothing, which earned Byakuya a glare and a choked back snarl from Leon. However, even if Byakuya was aware of that fierce look, he ignored it as he didn’t even turn around to acknowledge the ballplayer’s presence.

“We should probably get her some actual clothes too,” Hina abruptly piped up, “I can go and get something from her room if you want.”

“Good idea,” Junko concurred, before smirking slightly at Sayaka. “Can’t have you going around naked all the time. It’d ruin your image as an idol.”

The instant those words left her lips, it became clear that the Fashionista regretted them because she watched as Sayaka’s breath hitched. The idol then lowered her gaze and squeezed her eyes shut, as if blocking out a most painful memory. Luckily, before the situation had a chance to worsen, another voice spoke up.

“Obviously, the boys will need to leave the room for the time being,” Celeste insisted, folding her hands daintily as she smiled at them. “The girls will stay and take care of Sayaka.”

At the mention of the girls staying, Chihiro tensed but it was so slight that no one seemed to notice.

“Wait, what? Why do only the guys have to leave?” Mondo pressed, pushing off the wall for the first time since everyone arrived.

Smiling overly sweetly at him, the gambler answered, “Oh, did you want to stay and watch as we inspected her naked body for any more injuries? I never imagined you to be so immoral.”

Crimson flashed over Mondo’s cheeks for a brief instant as he replied, “T-That’s not—! I didn’t mean—! Dammit, never mind!”

“Alright then!” Taka regained authority with his boisterous voice, “Ladies, you know what you need to do! Men, in the meantime, we shall continue exploring the school. There’s no reason we should put such an important task on hold! Except for Makoto, he can go back to sleep.”

It was only now that everyone turned to see that, despite how hard he tried, Makoto was dangerously close to nodding off while sitting in a chair near Sayaka’s bed.

“Hey, hold on! You can’t just decide what the rest of us should do, dumbass!” Mondo suddenly retorted, “Nobody tells me what to do! Least of all a rule obsessed hall monitor like you!”

For an instant a look of genuine shock crossed Taka’s face as he was refuted, as if it were the first time someone had ever gone against his directions. However, he recovered quickly and replied, “It only makes sense that we continue investigating. We may find something useful. I understand it was your task as a guard but standing around all day will not help us here. Everyone has to do their part.”

“I was doing my part, you uppity prick!” Mondo instantly roared, slamming one fist into his palm. “You were the one doing diddly squat, looking around the first floor, which we already explored!”

Furrowing his brows, Taka defended himself, “There may be something here to discover! After all, some of the doors were sealed before but now it seems—!”

“Would you two please take your little spat outside?!” the agitated voice of Junko shouted from across the room. “If you’re gonna go and continue investigating than just go! We’ve got work to do here, right girls?”

Before Mondo or Taka could even think about retorting, a massive shadow loomed over both of them. As one, they turned to see none other than Sakura glaring down at them.

“Indeed. After all, all of this noise certainly won’t help anyone.”

Tensing slightly, the two boys turned to see Sayaka nervously staring at them. At the same time, Makoto, who had been startled by the shouting, was looking around in a daze, as if he was unsure of how he’d ended up back here. At the very least, their shouting had kept him awake, and by that regard, safe from punishment of breaking the “no sleeping outside their rooms rule”.

Not only that, it seemed that Chihiro was cowering in fear, shaking slightly as she stared at them. She was hunched over and gripping her sides, as if holding something in place. Feeling embarrassed by their actions, Taka and Mondo simply frowned at each other for a moment before the biker huffed and headed for the door.

“…Whatever. Let’s just get this over with,” he seethed, exiting the room while graciously leaving his coat behind.

With a light huff of his own, Byakuya said, “Don’t take too long. I’ll be waiting outside, so be sure to let me know whenever you’re finished.”

Although that statement earned him a few angry glares, he promptly ignored them and departed before allowing for any objections.

“I-I’ll g-go and help in-investigate…” Toko squeaked, immediately following Byakuya out of the room.

“Right, then. Come on then, men. We need to get going,” Taka quietly concurred, beginning to usher the other boys out of the room.

“…Uh, if no one minds…I think I’d like to help investigate too.” The timid voice of Chihiro echoed, making everyone turn to her with a raised eyebrow.

“Are you certain? You can stay here and rest if you’d like,” Celeste offered, already seated and preparing to lounge while the other girls did the majority of the work.

Shaking her head slightly, Chihiro tensed bit more before answering, “N-No thanks. I think that I’d like to do what I can to help…if that’s alright?”

It was strange for her to ask permission like that but then again, her apologetic nature made it seem almost normal for her to do so. Most of the girls just shrugged, not minding either way.

“I’m sure the boys will appreciate your help,” Sakura encouraged her, giving her a warm smile. “Do not worry, we will care for Sayaka.”

Having been given permission, Chihiro smiled back and nodded, “Alright then, I’ll be back later everyone.”

Without waiting for anyone else, the petite programmer slipped past everyone and out the door, heading down the hallway toward the dorms. An instant later, Hina also headed out, presumably to get some clothes for Sayaka, but stopped to stare at the remaining boys for a moment.

“You all should get going too,” the swimmer insisted before darting down the hallway.

Feeling rather unwelcome there, Taka, Hifumi, and Hiro all prepared to leave. However, before they even got to the door, Hifumi abruptly stopped and turned around.

“Umm, aren’t we forgetting someone?” he awkwardly mentioned, glancing back at Makoto, who was straining his eyes trying to remain awake.

“We could just let him stay here,” Hiro suggested light-heartedly. “You could put him in a bed and close the curtains. It’ll be fine.”

“B-But! It’s unwholesome for a boy to—!” Taka protested before being cut off.

“It’s also against the rules,” Kyoko’s harsh tone concurred, sending a quick glare at Hiro before walking over to Makoto. “Come on, I’ll help you get back to your room.”

Although everyone was a bit suspicious of Kyoko’s kind offer, no one seemed to mind all that much. Perhaps it was because they felt that, of all the boys, Makoto was the only one that they could feel comfortable around because of his hopeful and honest nature. They wouldn’t have minded even letting him stay but that was out of the question. In the end, they didn’t have a choice. There was no telling when Monokuma would appear and enforce the “sleep is only allowed in your room rule”.

“N-No…I can…” Makoto tried to insist as he stood up but nearly fell back in his seat, barely able to stay conscious.

A swift hand grasped his arm, steadying him before pulling that arm over a shoulder.

“Don’t be stubborn. It won’t end well for you,” Kyoko said as she used her shoulder to keep him upright. “You’re going back to sleep. Now.”

“Shouldn’t you get some rest too, Kyoko? You also spent the entire night watching over Sayaka,” a concerned Sakura questioned.

Hearing this, Sayaka immediately snapped her head up and said, “W-What? You were…watching over me?”

Her voice was soft and confused, unable to believe that the cold and stoic Kyoko would do such a thing. Her answer came directly from the lavender haired girl, who glanced at her over her own shoulder.

“It wasn’t only me…Makoto was the one who took care of you all through the night. You should thank him.”

Sayaka’s eyes widened at this news, moisture welling up in the corners of her eyes. She couldn’t bring herself to say anything, shame clouded her and all she could do was hang her head and let a few tears fall into her hands. It was lucky that Makoto was barely conscious because he would have refused to go if he saw that.

However, with his fading consciousness, Kyoko knew that they had little time and she needed to depart. Getting a firm grip, she prepared to carry him out.

Out the corner of her eye, Kyoko saw Junko giving them a heated look but it only lasted a second before the Fashionista turned and headed to Sayaka’s bedside. And although she knew it was probably just something harmless, Kyoko couldn’t help but feel a growing suspicion for Junko’s actions. However, this was neither the time nor the place.

“I’ll be back soon,” she said quickly following the boys as they headed out. However, one of the boys remained rooted in place.

Leon, who had gone unnoticed for quite a bit of time, continued to awkwardly stand in the center of the room, glancing at Sayaka. It was obvious that he had words stuck on the tip of his tongue that desperately needed to be said but knew that it just wasn’t the time for it. This created a hesitation that made him wish he’d just spoken up sooner.

Just when it seemed like he was on the cusp of speaking, an irritating voice called out, “Leon! Hurry before you are late for our investigation!”

Panic rose up in Leon as Taka shouted to him from the doorway, drawing the attention of all of the girls left in the room. Celeste gave a light huff but otherwise said nothing, while Sakura merely looked on almost apologetically. Finally, Sayaka briefly lifted her head to look at him, tears still brimming and eyes that held more sadness than he could bear at the moment.

This only made his earlier hesitation spike back up and when he tried to say something, only a squeak of sound came out. Just as he was about to slink away, possibly to bury himself under a mountain of self-doubt, a familiar voice startled him.

“I’ll come find you as soon as we’re all done,” Junko said, looking directly at him, her sky blue eyes firm but gentle. “Then we’ll sort this whole thing out, got it?”

Leon stood there a moment, letting her words sink in. For reasons he just couldn’t understand, knowing that she was placing faith in him was somehow able to calm his frazzled nerves. Or at least, it was enough to snap him out of his dazed state and bring him back to reality.

“Y-Yeah…take care of Sayaka…” he managed to utter, forcing himself to turn away and head for the door. Looking over his shoulder ever few steps, he eventually exited the room, shutting the door behind him.

Junko smiled briefly before a mocking chuckle reached her ears.

“I didn’t know the two of you had become so close. It must be because of your daring rescue, yesterday,” Celeste chided, stifling her laughter in the process.

The Fashionista glared daggers at her and Sayaka, who was wiping away her tears, raised a confused eyebrow.

“‘Daring rescue’? What are you talking about?” she asked them, looking around at everyone.

“It’s nothing…” Junko answered swiftly, pulling up a chair and sitting next to Sayaka. “Let’s get those bandages changed. After that, we’ll talk about—”.

“No…tell me what happened!” Sayaka demanded, glaring at all of them one by one. “No one ever answered…my question! What happened yesterday after I was…attacked?!”

There was a decided silence and it seemed that, even now, none of the girls were really comfortable with explaining the horrific chain of events that Sayaka had inadvertently caused. Perhaps if Kyoko had been there, she would have explained but without her presence, it seemed the task would fall to one of them instead. Just as the silence began to deepen, a deep voiced sigh echoed.

“Allow me to explain…” Sakura said, quietly taking a seat by Sayaka’s bed as Junko removed Mondo’s coat and began changing her bandages.


 

Chihiro practically rushed into her dorm room, closing the door behind her with a firm slam. Her breathing was heavy from having run almost the entire way, showing just how weak her petite body was. Bolting the door shut, just in case, she reached underneath her shirt and grasped something.

Carefully, she pulled out the laptop from the library that she had hidden away beneath her clothes, staring at the Hope’s Peak Academy logo on the back of it.

“Why did I feel the need to hide it?” she wondered aloud, brushing off a bit of dust as she headed for her desk. “No one would have objected to my taking it…I think.”

Even though she told herself that, a part of her was scared to have anyone see her with it. Mainly because they would have asked the all important question, ‘What are you going to do with it?’. It would have been a simple answer, ‘I’m going to fix it’ but then that would lead to, ‘How? You don’t have a toolkit’.

…But she did.

Setting the out of power laptop on her desk, Chihiro reached a shaky hand down to the bottom drawer of the desk. With a swift tug, she pulled open the drawer to reveal a completely sealed toolkit staring up at her, as if mocking her. It was an eternal symbol of the secret she was hiding from everyone, and she couldn’t take the chance of anyone finding out. Not even Makoto, whom she felt would be the most understanding, could be allowed to know her dark secret.

Even though she was born as a man, Chihiro always felt that she was, in fact, a girl. It wasn’t immediate, mind you, but after pondering everything for several years, she came to the conclusion that, despite having a male body, she was always meant to be female.

However, because she didn’t have the courage to admit it to anyone, she was forever shamed by the fact that she would never been seen that way. Even now, when she looked at her e-handbook, it listed her as male. She had appealed to the school board before she arrived to have her listed as female but she never heard back from them before arriving at the school. And now, being caught up in this killing game, she knew it wasn’t the time to worry about that.

Despite that, having such evidence as a toolkit and a bathroom that didn’t lock were cruel reminders that even if she did come out and tell everyone, no one would accept her for who she was. In fact, they’d probably be suspicious of her for not telling them sooner, which would lead to them not trusting her. Leaving her all alone here in this horrifying situation…

However…!

“I have to do what I can to help! And even though it’s risky…” Chihiro told herself as she lifted the toolkit from the drawer, “I know that I can be of use to everyone!”

Tearing open the brand-new kit, Chihiro grabbed the screwdriver, sat in front of the powered down laptop and instantly went to work on repairing it.


 

“…And so, it was decided that we would wait for your awakening before discussing the matter further,” Sakura concluded, just as Junko finished dressing the injured pop idol’s wounds.

Sayaka’s already pale complexion whitened as Sakura finished explaining all that had transpired. A class trial, the horrific consequences of actually deceiving her classmates, the punishment for the killer if they are caught…it all seemed too terrifying to be real, like it was taken from the mind of a psychotic serial killer or something.

But it was real. Monokuma’s presence and malicious nature was more than enough to convince Sayaka that everything her classmate had told her was true. And the fact that she had, unknowingly, forced that predicament upon her classmates chilled her to the bone.

Then again, at the time of her attempted murder, her mind had been anything but clear. She’d been frantic in her quest to escape and even though she tried to convince herself otherwise, she wasn’t really sure if having knowledge of the class trial would have swayed her decision. She hoped that it would have but that was immaterial at this point.

“This is all my fault…I nearly killed everyone…just to try and escape…and Leon—”.

A tightening of bandages around her midsection sent a jolt of pain through her body, making the pop idol wince as Junko finished dressing her wound. Not only that, she had carefully wrapped up Sayaka’s sprained wrist and had her arm in a sling.

“Alright, that should do it.” Junko flashed her a quick smile and pulled away, “Just don’t move around too much. The wound wasn’t too deep and it already seems to be healing. You’re lucky it was only a light cut.”

Her tone was light and seemingly joking but the seriousness and worry couldn’t be masked. And more than that, something about the Fashionista’s voice was so soothing and familiar, as if she’d heard it somewhere before today—

Before she could wonder about it further, the door to the nurse’s office slid open and a loud voice erupted.

“Hey! I brought some clothes from your room Sayaka!” Hina joyously conveyed to the entire room, carrying two sets of identical clothing. Both of the outfits had shirts were white with blue trimmed collars and a matching miniskirt…identical to the uniform she’d been wearing up until this point. “Sorry it isn’t much, but there just weren’t many different kinds of clothes in your closet.”

Even though they were her own clothes, Sayaka couldn’t help but feel a bit unnerved at seeing her uniform again. Then again, it wasn’t really her fault. Ever since she’d been shut up in this school, she’d only had her uniform to wear, three sets of it to be precise. She knew she brought more clothes with her but for some reason, only her three uniforms were in her closet. In fact, aside from Junko, no one ever seemed to change their clothes on a daily basis.

The pop idol hadn’t really noticed until now, even Makoto kept wearing the same hooded jacket every single day. It was probably Monokuma’s doing, taking away their clothes to limit what they could wear was probably a tactic to get them to kill…somehow. She wasn’t really sure but at the moment it didn’t really mater. At least she had clothes to wear…even if they reminded her of nearly being killed.

“T-Thanks,” she answered, her voice shaky, as if she wasn’t sure it was right to say such a thing after what she’d done. To her shock, Hina practically beamed as she set the clothes down on the bed.

“Not a problem! We weren’t going to make you roam around naked. Besides, that’s what friends are for, right Sakura?”

For a moment, the martial artist almost hesitated, stealing a quick glance over to Sayaka. If the pop idol hadn’t been looking at her, she might have missed it but rather than any kind of resentment, Sayaka could see the forgiveness within Sakura’s eyes. However, for reasons that she couldn’t quite place, the pop idol also felt a hint of…guilt in her gaze as well.

Despite being a bit confused by that, Sayaka remained silent as Sakura smiled warmly before answering, “…Indeed, you are right Hina.”

A lump formed in Sayaka’s throat as those words echoed in her ears. Even if it were so few of them, it seemed that these girls, at least, were willing to forgive her for her crimes. She wanted to thank them but it just didn’t feel right. After all, she hadn’t forgiven herself yet for the horrible thing she’d done to all of them.

“They shouldn’t forgive me so easily…I know that I wouldn’t…”

A stirring beside her almost startled her but she settled down when she saw that it was only Junko, leaning over to pick up her uniform.

“I’ll help you get dressed,” she said plainly, not really asking at all.

“N-No, it’s fine. I can—”, Sayaka tried to protest but found the Fashionista not heeding her request.

Almost without warning, her uniform top was thrust over her head, startling her. Before she knew it, her head poked through the hole at the top and her arms slowly slid down through the sleeves, with Junko’s hands almost meticulously straightening out the clothing. When she was finished smoothing out the top, the Fashionista lifted the skirt up and frowned.

“…I know it’s fashionable but I don’t think that this is the best for your condition right now.” Junko rubbed her chin in thought before snapping her fingers and smirking. “I’ve got something that would go great with this top and it’ll be super comfortable too. Give me a sec and I’ll run and grab it.”

As Junko stood up to leave, Sayaka’s uninjured hand shot out and grasped her sleeve. “D-Don’t worry about it. This…is fine…”

Slowly, the Fashionista turned her head around and, much to Sayaka’s surprise, glared down at the pop idol. There wasn’t any real anger in Junko’s eyes but there certainly was a great deal of frustration building up, evident by the scowl that formed on her face.

“Why the hell not?”

“…Huh?” Sayaka choked out, shocked by Junko’s piercing glare and fierce attitude. “Well…I mean…I don’t really deserve to—”.

“You don’t deserve what?” The Fashionista fired back, narrowing her eyes. “To wear a comfortable outfit after recovering from a life-threatening injury? We should make you wear clothes that will hurt you while you’re trying to get better? Is that what you’re trying to say?”

Without much thought or hesitation, Sayaka lowered her gaze, let go of Junko’s sleeve and whispered, “…Maybe—?”

“Well too bad,” Junko immediately refuted, looking away as the pop idol’s gaze shot up to her. “You’re going to get a nice, comfortable and, dare I say, fashionable outfit to wear while you recover. And you’re gonna like it.”

“But…but I don’t really need—”

Junko’s heavy sigh interrupted Sayaka’s protests. Whirling around and placing her hands on her hips, the Fashionista said, “When the Ultimate Fashionista offers to hand pick your clothes, the proper response is; ‘Oh, how wonderful! Thank you for brightening up my otherwise dreary wardrobe with your extensive knowledge!’.”

“That’s not the point!” Sayaka protested, matching the Fashionista’s glare as she finally got fed up with her opinion being ignored.

“Then what is the point?” Junko shot back, unwilling to retreat in the slightest.

“I don’t care what I wear! I just want to—”.

“You should care! Wearing uncomfortable clothes can affect your recovery! Why do you think they make patients wears those ugly hospital gowns?! Because it helps! I want to get you something like that but more appropriate to wear around the school!”

Despite her best efforts, Sayaka felt her face flush in embarrassment as Junko enthusiastically expressed her opinion. She wanted to refuse the offer and just wear anything at this point but knew that if she kept on pushing, it would only complicate matters further.

Realizing there was no way to win this argument, she finally relented and said, “Fine…go get whatever you want…”

A triumphant smirk spread over Junko’s lips as she said, “There now. Was that really so hard?”

“Yes!” Sayaka furiously thought but kept it to herself.

“Alright then, I’ll be back in just a sec!” Junko happily decreed before turning on a heel and heading for the door, closing it behind her as she left. When she was gone, Sayaka let out a relieved sigh but said nothing, pleased the ordeal was over with…or so she thought.

“In that case,” the soft tone of Celeste caught everyone’s attention, “I will go and fetch the others.”

Sayaka, as well as Hina and Sakura, instantly turned to stare at Celeste. The gambler had been sitting in one of the chairs, watching in silence as they had done all the work, pleasantly smiling all the while. It was almost as if she had been impatiently waiting for them to finish taking care of Sayaka. But now it seemed that she was done with waiting, as she had already stood up and planned to do exactly as she’d said she would.

Sayaka’s stern attitude dissipated almost instantly, shakily replying, “W-What? Why do you need to do that?!”

Folding her hands daintily under her chin, the gambler replied, “You seem well enough to argue about fashion. Surely then, you feel ready to discuss what happened with the others, do you not?”

The pop idol visibly flinched, knowing there was no way she could refute that. Her injury had only been severe because of the loss of blood, but after the transfusion, she was feeling incredibly well considering she’d almost died. However, that didn’t mean her emotional state had completely stabilized, and she knew she wasn’t ready to face everyone.

Even more unnerving was the fact that, even though she was smiling that same as usual, Celeste appeared to be far too eager about gathering everyone. Almost as if she was enjoying watching Sayaka squirm, which made the pop idol seethe despite her guilt.

“We should at least wait until Junko returns with clothing,” Sakura unexpectedly spoke up, her massive arms folded, staring at Celeste with only one eye open. “Surely gathering the others can wait until after she’s completely changed clothes.”

An amused huff sounded from Celeste as she let her hands fall to her sides, “I certainly agree. I just thought that I would go and inform everyone that we would be able to meet in a few minutes. We’ve waited all day for this after all. And besides, we need to discuss our discoveries from investigating the school, do we not?”

“Well…yeah, I guess so,” Hina reluctantly concurred, hanging her head slightly and sneaking a sympathetic glance at Sayaka.

“Then it’s settled,” Celeste concluded, leaving no room for argument as she headed for the door. Just before opening it though, she spared a moment to glance back at Sayaka and said, “I will go and gather everyone but I will be sure to knock before we enter, in case you are changing.”

With a snide smirk spread over her lips, Celeste opened the door and departed. All the while, Sayaka narrowed her eyes and glared furiously at her, lips pursed and teeth tightly gritted.


 

“Alright then, let’s begin the meeting!” Taka announced to everyone who had gathered in the small nurse’s office. “Let’s start with what we found while investigating the school!”

All of the students, apart from Makoto, were crowded into the office but managed to find ways to be comfortable.

Mondo leaned against the nearby wall, the same as before. Taka stood in the center of the room, trying to be the center of the room. Hina, and Chihiro were sitting near Sayaka’s bed with Sakura standing next to them. Byakuya leaned against the door itself, as if to block it in case anyone tried to flee. Toko sat in a chair close to him, glancing his way every few seconds. Celeste twirled her hair and stood off the side, waiting impatiently for the meeting to being. Hiro and Hifumi kept to themselves, standing cautiously near the door but not as close as Byakuya.

Junko was by Sayaka’s bedside, glaring at everyone like an overprotective mother every time someone tried to stare at Sayaka. Leon nervously sat on an adjacent bed, just far enough away from where the pop idol was resting, his head hung but his eyes occasionally glancing her way. Kyoko stood with her arms folded, leaning against the far back wall, her face stoic and unreadable.  

Finally, Sayaka was sitting up in her bed, fully clothed but obviously nervous.

It hadn’t taken long for Junko to return, with no less than three different pairs of designer pants, all of which were more comfortable than Sayaka could have ever imagined. She had trouble getting out of bed and her legs weren’t strong enough for her to support herself, so she ended up having to lean her legs over the side of the bed while Junko and Sakura helped get the pants on.

Almost as soon as they were finished, Celeste had knocked on the door and led everyone else in. Makoto was the only one not present. On Kyoko’s insistence, she recommended that he be allowed to rest, as he was clearly exhausted. And although most of the students understood that, some of them didn’t agree with him being left out.

However, despite how ugly it made her feel, Sayaka felt a bit relieved that he wasn’t there. The guilt of trying to frame him overwhelmed her judgment and she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to face him again.

“Before we get to that,” Byakuya spoke up, not letting anyone discuss their findings from their investigations, “I think we need to first address the elephant in the room.”

All eyes turned to Sayaka, who seemed to shrink in size under all of their gazes. However, one student had his eyes set on someone completely different.

“Hey, man, that’s really rude!” Hiro abruptly said, making Byakuya and several other’s glare at him. “I mean, yeah, he’s big guy but comparing Hifumi to an elephant is just wrong!”

For few seconds, an awkward silence filled the room as everyone felt the intelligence level drop significantly. Breathing a heavy sigh and folding his arms sternly, Byakuya answered, “I was referring to Sayaka and her betrayal…”

“……Oh! Okay, that makes more sense!” Hiro said with a laugh that tempted everyone to throw him out.

“Indeed, it does!” Hifumi surprisingly agreed, much to the somewhat shock of his fellow classmates. Taking a brazen step forward while adjusting his glasses, he put his hands on his hips and shouted, “Though I must admit that if I had transformation power, I would rather change into a beautiful naked woma—!”

“That’s enough of that! Things are tense enough without your weird commentary!” Hina instantly cut in, silencing the fanfic creator faster than anyone could have expected.

“Oh…I see…” Hifumi seemed to sulk for a moment before retreating back, letting himself fade back into the crowd.

“With that out of the way,” Celeste intervened to get the conversation back on track, “I think it’s about time we discussed what needs to be done with Leon and Sayaka.”

At the mention of their names, the baseball star and pop idol tensed, fear welling up inside both of them. They both knew that this had been coming and although they had prolonged it as much as possible, it seemed that nothing would be able to deny their fate any longer.

“Agreed,” Byakuya unsurprisingly supported, his condescending tone bearing down on both of them. “We have been lenient thus far but I feel that now is the time to take action.”

“And what exactly do you think we should do with them?” Junko harshly questioned, knitting her brows as she glared daggers at him.

As if expecting her hostility, the affluent progeny smirked and replied, “I propose…a vote.”

His suggestion startled everyone, not only because of its fairness but also because of what it implied. They would all be forced to make another decision that they would share the responsibility of, just like the class trial. And just as it had been in the trial, the mere suggestion of the vote had Leon trembling.

The horrific memory of everyone voting to kill him flooded his mind and the baseball star fought a wave of nausea that caused bile to leap up his throat. Fighting off that sickening feeling, Leon wasn’t sure what to even think about such an idea. Luckily for him, it seemed that there were others who weren’t please with the notion either.

“A vote? Vote for what?” the confused voice of Mondo asked, unsure of what the hell Byakuya was trying to get at.

With the confidence one would expect from the Ultimate Affluent Progeny, Byakuya adjusted his glasses before answering, “We need to decide whether or not we allow Sayaka and Leon to remain a part of group, or if we need to imprison them to keep them from doing further harm. Thus the need for the vote, a majority vote to be precise.”

“This isn’t a fucking class trial, you bastard! Why the hell do we need to vote on anything?!” the biker insisted, fully understanding the notion now.

“I must agree with Mondo,” Sakura calmly stated, “Surely there is a better way for us to resolve this?”

Shifting his gaze over to her, Byakuya hardened his features and said, “If you have a better way of fairly deciding what should be done with them, then I would like to hear it.”

A momentary silence engulfed them before Hina spoke up, “Well, we can’t really have a fair vote anyway. Makoto isn’t here, and I don’t know if we should go and wake—”.

A mocking scoff escaped Byakuya’s lips as he interrupted, “We don’t need Makoto to be here.”

“No! That is unacceptable!” Taka jumped in, pointing at Byakuya furiously. “We can’t have a fair vote if one of us is absent! It’s bad enough we have to have this meeting without everyone being accounted for, and I for one will not allow a vote where we are missing an individual.”

“I second that,” Kyoko finally spoke up, “Personally, the idea of voting doesn’t bother me. However, it is certainly something that we all need to be present for if it is to happen.”

Around the room, most of the students began to whisper murmurs of agreement. Perhaps it was because they wanted to avoid creating another class trial scenario or maybe they just didn’t want to have the responsibility of the vote on their consciences. In either case, it seemed that Byakuya’s notion was going to be shot down…at least until he let out a condescending chuckle which drew everyone’s attention.

“Have none of you realized it yet?” he openly questioned, but didn’t given anyone time to answer. “The reason I said we don’t need Makoto isn’t because I don’t think he should have a vote or because of the urgency of the matter. It’s because we already have his answer.”

Byakuya’s implication hung in the air for only a moment before everyone began to realize exactly what he meant.

“Think about it. If Makoto were here, do any of you honestly think he would vote to lock away either of them?”

“So, what you’re saying is that, because we know which way he would vote—?” Kyoko began but was quickly cut off.

“Exactly. We don’t need him to be here, we can simply tally his vote as already being cast,” the affluent progeny concluded, smirking to himself as he finally seemed to outwit the lavender haired girl.

At the same time, Kyoko narrowed her eyes at him, visibly showing the tiniest bit of frustration for the first time since they’d been trapped here. With no logical way to refute his claim, she fell silent as the rest of her classmates began to ponder the situation carefully.

“Hmm, it is true that Mr. Naegi would undoubtedly vote to let them be part of the group again, but still…” Hifumi speculated, unsure of what to make of this new development.

“It just doesn’t seem right to vote without his presence,” Sakura admitted, not knowing if her confession would change anything.

“I think we should postpone any kind of voting until Makoto is here with us,” Junko chimed in, the reason behind her agreement more than obvious. However, it didn’t seem to stunt the momentum that the affluent progeny had built up with this notion.

“We have already put this off for long enough,” Byakuya insisted, his sharp eyes glaring at both Sayaka and Leon. “The time has come to make a decision and we can’t let one person, whom we know will vote to let them stay, get in the way of that decision.”

His authoritative voice echoed in the small room and, unfortunately, no one seemed able to refute him this time. Not even Leon and Sayaka, who had nervously listened as their classmates decided what should be done with them, could disagree with his logic. They certainly disagreed with how and why he was doing it, but both of them knew they had brought it on themselves.

This was, in one way or another, a form of punishment they both had to endure.

“Pardon me, but I would like say something.” Celeste called out during the small break in conversation, drawing everyone’s attention. “Personally, I don’t mind voting on whether they stay or not but I do think we should vote for them individually.”

A murmur of confusion spread through the students at her suggestion but only Kyoko found the will to ask, “And why is that?”

Smiling overly sweetly, Celeste glanced over to Sayaka as she began, “While it is true that both of them betrayed us, there is a great difference between them. Their crimes, while similar, are vastly different and need to be taken into account.”

Sayaka felt a chill run down her spine and she averted her gaze to keep from letting her shame overwhelm her. Seeing this, Celeste smirked before shifting her gaze over, locking her calculating eyes onto Leon.

“Of the two of them, I believe that Leon committed a graver sin and he deserves to be held accountable for it.”

The instant those words were spoken, Sayaka’s eyes widened and her head snapped back to see Celeste twirling a lock of her hair as she mercilessly continued.

“I believe I said this before, during the trial, but…Leon had ample time to abandon his attempts to force open the bathroom and get to Sayaka.”

“B-But! Leon only did that because he was worried about Sayaka!” Chihiro instantly jumped to his defense, surprising many of the students with how vocal she could be. At the same time, Leon looked over and let a bit of relief fill him, happy that the programmer had come to his defense.

“Even if his claims are true and he only did it out of concern for her, that notion does not absolve him of the crime,” the gambler continued unabated, not letting the remark slow her down. “If he had simply left, perhaps Sayaka would never have been ‘accidentally’ injured in the first place.”

Hearing that clear implication, and only now realizing it could be true, Leon felt that hint of relief vanish as he squeezed his eyes shut and hung his head, resigned to his fate.

With no one objecting to her statements, Celeste continued on, “And we cannot forget that he consciously chose to cover up his crime after it had been committed. If he is truly as remorseful as he claims to be, then he should have admitted to the crime when—”.

THWAP!!

“Ahhhhgh!”

Everything stopped as a slapping sound immediately followed by a terrified scream came from the other side of the room. All of the students shot their gazes over to see Hiro, his arms wrapped around himself in pointless defense, staring at a pillow that was lying on the ground in front of him.

“W-W-Who’s throwing pillows at me?!” the frightened clairvoyant shouted, frantically looking around the room.

“Sorry, that was me.”

The entire room was shocked to hear Sayaka, whom they now saw was pillow-less, admit to the deed with absolutely no hesitation. For a good ten seconds, no one said a word, with everyone just staring at her with wonder and confusion.

“U-Umm, why did you throw a pillow at me?” Hiro carefully asked, seeming to be frightened of her at that moment.

Bowing her head slightly for a moment before sitting upright again, Sayaka waved her uninjured left arm for emphasis as she said, “I really am sorry but my aim was off because I’m using my weak arm. I wasn’t aiming for you, Hiro...I was actually aiming for Celeste.”

If the students hadn’t been shocked before, they were now. Not only because of what had happened, but because her aim had been way off. Hiro was on the opposite side of the room that Celeste was. It was a miracle she hit anyone with such poor aim. In fact, the entire group seemed to shift to looking between Sayaka, then to Celeste, over to Hiro, down to the pillow, then back to Sayaka to restart the process, all the while trying to figure out how it had happened. It seemed like hours went by as each and every student went through the process at least once.

Amidst this strange viewing ritual, Sayaka extended her good hand out again and said, “Can I have my pillow back please?”

“Uh, why?” Hiro absent-mindedly asked, the obvious answer not coming to him right away.

However, his question was actually well-founded when Sayaka replied, “So I can try again.”

Shrugging his shoulders, Hiro was just about to lean down and retrieve the pillow for her when the confused voice of Celeste rang out, making his hesitate.

“More to the point,” the gambler inquired intently, “Why were you trying to hit me with that pillow?”

Sayaka paused for a moment before sending the most vicious glare any of them had ever seen directly toward the gambler as she replied, “To get you to shut the hell up!”

Everyone seemed to flinch at the ferocity the pop idol displayed. It wasn’t just her tone, everything that had made her seem sweet or innocent seemed to have vanished right before their eyes. It was almost as if she was out for blood and wouldn’t stop until she was satisfied. None of them had ever seen the usually sparkling Sayaka in such a terrifying light.

Well, almost all of them anyway.

Leon knew this ferocity all too well; he’d been assaulted with it just the other night…when Sayaka had tried to kill him. The frantic hysteria in her eyes, the fury in her voice, the horrifying panic that consumed her reason…her very being had changed into that of a cornered beast. Even just recalling that terrible memory made the baseball star shudder uncontrollably, unable to suppress the fear that rose up in him as a result.

But then…something seemed different about Sayaka’s imposing nature this time. He couldn’t quite place it exactly, but instead of her being fanatic and aggressive, she seemed more on the defensive, as if she was trying to protect something.

And Leon wasn’t the only one to notice this. From across the room, Kyoko kept her stoic eyes locked on the pop idol as the scene unfolded. Nearby, Junko seemed like she was almost repressing a smile as she looked on. And finally, Byakuya watched with great interest, as if he’d been waiting for this for quite a while now.

However, Sayaka paid no mind to any of the suspicious or startled glances she received. Her blue eyes narrowed dangerously at Celeste and she seethed, “You have no right to put all the blame on Leon. If I hadn’t tricked him into meeting with me and tried to frame Makoto for it, then none of this would have happened!”

As she vented her pent up frustrations, Celeste, who had been taken aback this entire time, finally seemed to regain her wits. As if on instinct, the gambler leisurely crossed her arms and averted her gaze as she replied, “Perhaps, but that is irrelevant. Because despite your claims, the fact is that Leon consciously tried to cover up his crime—”.

“And I suppose you would have just laid down and died!” Sayaka interrupted, her tone forcing Celeste to return her gaze back to the pop idol. “Face it! None of you would have done any different if I had targeted you instead—!”

“She raises a good point.”

The room fell awkwardly silent as Byakuya spoke up in between Sayaka’s shouting. All attention focused on him, which he probably appreciated, and it didn’t take long for him to huff and cross his arms, an overly confident smile plastered on his face.

“I can say with 100% certainty that any of us would have done the same. And it’s for that reason that I proposed the vote in the first place. Voting for them separately is pointless, as both of them have betrayed our trust, albeit in different ways,” he paused for but a moment to glance around at everyone. Celeste in particular, he noticed, was glaring at him angrily, obviously displeased with his intervention.

However, he barely registered her animosity as he continued, “If we are to punish them, then it must be both or neither of them, as either one of them presents a considerable threat—”.

“No...”

An annoyed grunt escaped Byakuya at being interrupted and he scowled as he saw Sayaka glaring at him furiously. All of her rage seemed to have been shifted over from Celeste to him. She almost looked as if she was going to pull a knife on him, much to everyone’s terror. However, the affluent progeny seemed less than intimidated by her attitude.

“‘No’, what?” he inquired, matching her gaze with a fearsome glare.

Involuntarily, Sayaka momentarily winced under his gaze, obviously not prepared for anyone to match her ferocity. However, she recovered almost instantly, hardening her features and holding her head up high as she retorted, “Everything that happened is my fault…even if Leon tried to cover it up, it never would have happened if I hadn’t called him to my room. Leave him out of it.”

For a moment, Byakuya was left stunned as she glared at him. Even though her hair was slightly disheveled and her complexion was still noticeably pale, there was no denying the determination that radiated from the pop idol. She was unwilling to back down, and it seemed that she was intent on taking responsibility for everything that had happened.

Leon’s eyes bulged and he immediately shouted, “W-Wait a second! Sayaka, what are you—?”

“I’m afraid we can’t do that,” Byakuya cut him off, ignoring his protests and speaking directly to Sayaka. “Like it or not, both of you are at fault here. So both of you need to—”.

“Will you just shut up, you bastard?!” Everyone was taken aback as Sayaka’s anger seemed to peak, her index finger pointing accusatorily at the affluent progeny. “What gives you the right to judge us!? And what does it matter anyway! If you need to punish someone, then punish me! I’ll gladly—!”

“Hmmmmm, did someone mention…punishment!?” a menacingly high-pitched voice inquired

Sayaka ceased speaking the instant those words reached her ears, her blood practically freezing in her veins. And she wasn’t the only one, Leon also felt himself lose mobility in his muscles as that fearsome voice penetrated his eardrums. As one, the two of them slowly turned and fixed their terrified gazes on the object of their torment.

Standing by the door, with a strange box in its hands, Monokuma grinned maliciously and chuckled.

“I’d be beary happy to oblige…”


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

“Are you doing okay? Need a break?”

“No…let’s just get there fast.”

Shuffling down the hallway toward the dormitory with a slender arm slung over his shoulder, Leon hoisted up a slow moving Sayaka as she did her best to walk on her own. Her broken wrist was still in its sling and this meant if she fell, she wouldn’t be able to catch herself, hence Leon’s presence.

“…You sure you don’t need to rest?”

“I can rest when I get to my room…can we please hurry up?”

All in all though, she was doing well for someone that had lost so much blood the previous day, but it was painfully obvious she had little strength. She needed someone to counter balance her and hold her upright as she walked and it just had to be the person that had inflicted her wounds in the first place.

“Yeah, this ain’t awkward at all…” Leon mused as they moved along at a snail’s pace.

In truth, Sayaka was in no condition to be traveling so soon after her bandages had been replaced but it couldn’t be helped. Monokuma had made his demands quite clear…


 

One Hour Earlier:

As usual, Monokuma’s presence stunned the students into silence. The bear never came around without a purpose and like it or not, their survival depended on listening to every depraved thing their “Headmaster” had to say. Even so, some of the students seemed to be growing accustomed to the bear’s constant intrusions.

“You’re not welcome here,” the stern voice of Byakuya shook the room, startling everyone. “Get out; we’re having an important discussion.”

“Eh…really?” Monokuma said with a head tilt. “It looked like a bunch of meaningless prattle from a group of grade school-children, considering that it took over an hour to finally get to the good part.”

“What do you mean, ‘the good part’?” Hiro absent-mindedly asked, earning a few frustrated glares, particularly from Byakuya and Junko.

“Oh come now! Did you really think that you all could talk about punishments without having the Master of Masochistic Mayhem meander into the mix?!” While everyone rolled their eyes at Monokuma’s self-appointed title, the bear set the box at its side down in plain view for everyone. “Besides, I have this wonderful little show for you all to see!”

“Whatever it is, we don’t want to see it,” Junko spoke up, folding her arms and glaring menacingly at the bear. Its gaze downcast, Monokuma didn’t bother to lift its head as a maniacal chuckle echoed, sending chills down each student’s spine.

“Upupupupu...is that so? Are you sure you all feel the same way? You’re all completely fine with the fact that two of your classmates, who willingly betrayed you, are getting off scot free?” Snapping its head up, the bear’s half-grin seemed to widen as it continued, “That’s great! Such forgiveness is exactly what our communal life here is all about!”

A frightful silence engulfed the room, as no one had expected Monokuma to say anything remotely cheerful. It was a shock but also felt more terrifying than if the bear had threatened them. There had to be something more to this…

“Oh, but I should remind you of something,” Monokuma abruptly spoke again, continuing to be the central focus. “I am your delightfully vigilant headmaster, and as such, I feel that it is my duty to keep you all safe and sound while you’re in my school. And if there are any, shall we say, concerns that you might have about another student…I may be persuaded to discipline them.”

“What exactly are you getting at?” Byakuya asked, as if intrigued by the bear’s offer.

Spinning around joyfully, Monokuma halted mid turn and pointed both of its claws at the small box that had been set down in front of them.

“To answer that, I must refer all of you to the visual aid I brought with me!”

Without further ado, the bear tore off the lid to the box and turned it on its side so everyone could get a better view. Much to everyone’s surprise, the inside was quite detailed and seemed to resemble a concert stage, like the ones seen in pop videos. And standing in the center of that stage, trapped in a stereotypical idol pose, was a small doll with long blue hair.

It took the students all of two seconds to recognize what, or rather who, the doll was supposed to be.

“Is…is that…me?” Sayaka practically whimpered as she saw her tiny replica on the box’s ‘stage’.

“Indeed it is!” Monokuma confirmed as it grabbed the doll and proceeded to make it ‘dance’ all about the ‘stage’. Leon gritted his teeth, trying to repress how disgusting it was to watch the half and half bear toy with not only the doll, but Sayaka’s feelings as well.

“Once there was a lovely girl named Sayaka Maizono, who only wished for the heavenly warmth of the stage,” Monokuma monologued as it continued to play with the doll. “In fact, she loved it sooooo much that she was willing to do unspeakable things to keep it! But such naughty girls need to realize that no matter how hard they try—”.

Without warning Monokuma released the doll from its grasp, letting it stand upright in the center of the stage. Then, inexplicably from behind its back, the bear produced a small lever and skillfully plugged it into the side of the box. Turning the lever slowly, the familiar melody of “Pop Goes the Weasel” began to echo from inside the box.

*ding…ding-ding…ding-ding-ding-ding-ding…ding-ding…ding-ding…ding—CRUNCH*

Suddenly, just before the last note of the song, a bear-trap that had been cleverly hidden away beneath the box snapped shut. As the teeth of the trap snapped, they dug into the small body of the Sayaka doll, severing the head from the doll’s shoulders with a splat. An ominous gush of pink gunk shot out from the headless doll, spraying the floor all around the box.

And, as if guided by fate, the bloody, severed head of the doll flew straight toward Sayaka, smacking into her chest and making her jump and shrill at in terror.

“—you can never escape your punishment!”


 

As Sayaka’s terrified scream filled the room, Mukuro had to grab onto a nearby bed-frame to keep herself from reacting. She could have easily caught the flying doll head before it got anywhere near Sayaka but, of course, that would have ruined her guise. Her soldier’s instincts instantly put her on guard the moment she saw the box, and she knew that, even if it wasn’t something deadly, if Junko decided to use it, there was an express purpose.

The doll’s beheading combined with Sayaka’s fearful cry had put them all on edge. Glancing around she noticed that all of her classmates were startled; even Kyoko held the faintest bit of shock on her face as the scene unfolded. But that didn’t answer the question of why Junko had done it in the first place.

Perhaps the purpose had simply been to frighten all of them, Sayaka in particular, but there was something about the box trap that only Mukuro would know of. The way the Sayaka doll had been…destroyed, it was identical to what Junko had planned for the real Sayaka’s execution. A giant bear-trap on a stage she couldn’t escape, lulling her into a false sense of security that she might survive before brutally ending her life, it was tailor-made to play on the idol’s fears.

Was Junko upset that she may have lost the chance to perform the pop idol’s actual execution? No, there was still a chance Sayaka might fall to the temptation of murder once more…no matter how unlikely that was.

“But then…why go through the trouble of building a small execution replica?”

As Mukuro pondered that notion her eyes shifted over to see Monokuma, going unnoticed during the confusion, staring at her with a devilish grin. It was then that, clear as day, the animatronic bear finished it’s sentence from earlier.

“—you can never escape your punishment!”

Mukuro’s eyes widened as she realized the purpose of this little display. Everyone had been too distracted to notice that Monokuma’s final words were directed at her, something that Junko certainly must have planned. And while she was certain that the beheading had been a means of tormenting Sayaka, as well as agitating the rest of her class; more specifically it had been Junko’s way of sending her sister a very specific message.

“If I make a single mistake, if any of my classmates discover who I really am…I’ll have to face punishment as well.”


 

As Sayaka’s shrilled voice pierced everyone’s ears, Leon found himself speeding to her bedside. Grasping the bloody doll head in his hand, he quickly tossed it away from her. The instant it was gone from her sight, the pop idol finally finished screaming, falling eerily silent as her body trembled from the sudden activity. Her breathing became ragged and she struggled for air, her abdomen wound obviously plaguing her.

Once things started to settle, all hell began to break loose.

“What the hell was that about?!” Mondo suddenly shouted at Monokuma. “Trying to scare us like that is pretty low, man!”

“Indeed!” Taka joined in, pointing furiously at the bear. “Such a diorama is not acceptable! It didn’t have nearly enough detail to be considered A+ material, and to top it off, it was too deadly to be presented properly!”

“That’s not even remotely the issue here…” Junko muttered with a heavy sigh.

“Anyway,” Kyoko’s calm voice entered the fray, “What exactly was your purpose for coming here? And why was the ‘visual display’ needed?”

“I already told you, that was nothing more than a little visual aid. It was mainly for my own amusement since someone interrupted the execution yesterday,” Monokuma answered, shrugging off her comment while sending a slight glare toward Junko, who leaned against the wall, flipping the bear off.

Folding her arms, Kyoko continued, “Then would you mind telling us the reason for the visual aid? You never answered that.”

For a moment, it seemed that Monokuma growled a bit as Kyoko made her demand. However, the sound faded almost in instant later as the bear said, “Basically, if you all think that Sayaka can’t be trusted…I can arrange for a ‘repeat performance’. Only this time, we’d have it be the real deal.”

“Uh, wait…you’re saying that—”, Hiro tried to say before he was abruptly cut off.

“If we desire it, you can have any one of us executed? Is that what you’re implying?” Sakura said, unnerved by such an idea.

Taken aback by the sudden suggestion, a look of shock overtook Monokuma’s features and it waved its arms frantically in a ‘no’ formation.

“Oh me, oh my! Goodness, no! That would disrupt the rules that govern our little community!” the bear explained, slowly letting its arms fall to its side. “But if she just so happened to break any of the rules for whatever reason and one of you were to inform me of it…then I’d certainly have to punish her accordingly. And don’t worry; in this case, snitches won’t get stitches!”

A heavy silence dug into everyone as a familiar unease set into everyone. What the bear was suggesting was beyond unfair. If any of them reported Sayaka for even a minor rule breaker…she could be executed on the spot, with seemingly no repercussions imposed on whoever reported it.

Sayaka in particular began darting her eyes around the room gauging everyone. It was the first day all over again, with her being terrified of just about everyone. And this time, Makoto wouldn’t be here for her to rely on…a consequence she’d brought upon herself.

“So, if you see her breaking any rules, feel free to let me know so that I can carry out the justice our society demands of us!”

Monokuma cackled as everyone hung their heads, realizing how fragile their lives really were as long as the bear had control over the school. However, in the middle of its laughing fit, the bear was interrupted by a furious shout.

“You little bastard!!” Leon seethed as he glared at Monokuma, the bear only just finishing its chuckling. “You think this is funny, don’t you! Messing with her just after she’d finally woken up! Who the hell do you think you are?!”

Without missing a beat, Monokuma placed its hands on its hips and replied, “I…am…Monokuma! Headmaster of this school! I figured you would have that down by now…I’ve said it like forty-seven times already—”.

“Get out…” a small voice interrupted, startling the bear and ballplayer. Both of them turned to see Sayaka glaring daggers at Monokuma, holding her pillow in her good hand. Tears rolled down her face as she angrily shouted, “I said, get out, you little monster! I’ve had enough of you! Leave me alone!!”

Seeing exactly where this was leading, Junko’s eyes widened and she shouted, “No! Stop!”

But it was too late…

In a fit of anger, she flung her arm outward, hurling the pillow toward the bear. Unlike before, her aim was spot on and it flew directly at its target. Monokuma’s grin widened as the pillow grew closer and closer. And everyone knew that, the instant it reached the bear, her fate would be sealed, and there would be no escaping it this time.

*THWAP*

“No freakin’ way…” Leon whispered, unable to move.

He and everyone gasped as they saw the pillow, only a few inches from Monokuma’s smug face, held firmly in the grasp of someone’s hands. Even more surprising was that the one holding the pillow, the one who’d blocked it and kept it from striking the bear...was none other than Byakuya Togami.

“Although normally it’s beneath me to side with such peasants, in this instance, I must agree with them. We have no need of your services. Not now or ever,” Byakuya said sternly but without raising his voice. “We can decide the fate of our classmates on our own. You’re just in the way here. Be gone.”

Everyone paused as Byakuya’s demands reverberated around the room, strangely coming to his classmate’s defense. However, no one was more surprised than Monokuma, its face burning a bright red as its temper began to boil over.

“W-What’s it to you, anyway?! Weren’t you the one who thought that they needed to be punished—?!”

“I don’t recall saying that at all,” Byakuya cruelly interrupted, slowly turning to face the bear directly. “All I said was that we needed to decide what should be done with them. I never proposed any kind of punishment or execution. That was Sayaka. She, and she alone, was the one who felt the need to be punished.”

A deep furious growl slowly began to rise out of Monokuma as the Affluent Progeny’s calculating eyes narrowed in on the mistake the bear had flippantly made.

With an air of superiority about him, Byakuya continued, “I, on the other hand, think that isolation is the proper recourse here. For you see, I refuse to give you the satisfaction of executing one of us without due process.”

If Monokuma had had a vein in its head, it would have popped at the pure rage that exuded from the bear as it shouted in fury.

“AHHHRGH!! Fine! Just do whatever the hell you want with ‘em!” Monokuma screamed, waddle-stomping toward the door furiously. However, just before it left, the bear whirled around and said, “I hope you die penniless in a snowstorm.”

And without further ado, the bear flung open the infirmary door and disappeared into the hall, slamming the door with a furious clacking. The instant the bear was gone, an awkward silence covered the area for a moment before an ecstasy filled moan startled everyone.

“A-Amazing!!” Toko chocked out, her face beet red with sweat dripping down from her forehead. “M-Master Byakuya d-drove off the fiendish bear w-with his aura alone!”

“That’s not remotely close to what happened,” Hiro semi-protested but kept his voice low all the same.

“I’m more surprised by the fact that you decided to defend such ‘lowly commoners’,” Kyoko said, a suspicious glare on her face.

A light scoff escaped Byakuya’s lips as he answered, “Don’t misunderstand me. I simply didn’t want the bear interfering in my business. I won’t tolerate such uncouth behavior from anyone, let alone a pathetic remote controlled toy with a superiority complex.”

“Even so, that was quite a shock to see,” Celeste decided to interrupt, a crafty smile on her delicate face. “If you hadn’t of caught the pillow, Sayaka would surely have been executed. Did you perhaps—?”

“Don’t make me repeat myself,” Byakuya cut her off, sending her a chilling glare her way. “I only intervened because the bear has no place here. We still need to decide what needs to be done with these two betrayers.”

Without another word, Byakuya tossed the pillow back toward Sayaka, making her panic as she realized there wasn’t enough time for her to catch it. However, before it got close to her face, Leon snagged it out of the air. Before she could react, he was already holding it out for her to take from him.

Slowly reaching a hand out, she grasped the pillow and pulled it into her chest.

“T-Thanks—”.

“Okay, is no one going to address what just happened?” Junko abruptly asked, frowning at all of them.

“You mean how Mr. Togami became imbued with super human speed and—”, Hifumi tried to say before the Fashionista sent him what he interpreted as a death glare. “Eeeep!”

Shifting her gaze to glance at everyone again, Junko furrowed her brows and said, “I’m talking about the fact that no one seems to be upset about Sayaka nearly getting herself executed!”

There was a subtle pause as everyone realized that they had been too focused on Byakuya’s daring (and unexpected) rescue to really think about the situation. And unfortunately, the only one of them who had enough confidence to retort, shouldn’t have.

“Well, is it really that big a deal,” Hiro replied nonchalantly, waving one hand dismissively. “It’s not like anything happened—”.

*Smack*

“Arhhh!”

Everyone in the room heard the resounding slap as Junko’s palm brutally smacked into Hiro’s cheek. And for a moment, everyone just stood there as Junko, her body trembling from anger, glared at him furiously.

“One of us nearly got executed for a pillow fight! Does that sound like nothing to you?!”

“Uh, um, uh, uhhh…” Hiro tried to reply but the pain in his cheek combined with the absolute fear the Fashionista put into him compelled him to be silent. Luckily for him, Junko directed her attention over to the now terrified pop idol.

“And you, Sayaka! What the hell were you thinking?!” she continued on her tirade, practically stomping over to Sayaka’s bedside with all haste. Her teeth were grit and it was obvious she was struggling to keep her fury in check. The pop idol shrunk under her furious gaze, feeling more ashamed than ever over her stupid mistake.

“You’re already on thin ice and you pull a bullshit stunt like that?! What would you have done if…Byakuya hadn’t caught the pillow?! Or do you think that you deserve to die for not actually killing anyone?!”

The entire room seemed to shake as Junko uncharacteristically scolded her classmate.

“Well?! What do you have to say for yourself—?!”

“I don’t know!!” Sayaka instantly replied, hanging her head, her body trembling. “I don’t know what I should do anymore! I don’t want to die! But I have to get out of here and find my friends!! M-My friends…my friends could be dead and I…and I…”

Her words cut deep into everyone, each of them recalling their own DVD and the motive that had come with them. The frustration and desperation those little discs had caused were more powerful than any of them previously thought. Even Junko, whose fury seemed to have subsided, hung her head for a moment as most of the students realized how close they had come to buckling under the pressure.

They had all been just one step away from being in either Sayaka or Leon’s position, and if she hadn’t acted as quickly as she had, one of them could have fallen to that same temptation. It was a somber fact that not even Kyoko or the great Byakuya could refute.

Amidst the silence, Sayaka closed her eyes began to sob as she continued, “I…I don’t want…to hurt anyone…but…my friends…I…I don’t…”

To her sudden surprise, a pair of arms wrapped around her and her head was laid gently against a soft surface. Sayaka’s eyes snapped open to see Junko gently caressing her head, running a careful hand through the pop idol’s hair.

“It’s okay…just let it out…”

Confusion warped Sayaka’s features but it quickly dissipated as she gave in to her own grief, latching her good arm around the Fashionista and openly weeping. Her tears stained Junko’s designer blouse but the fashion model said nothing about it as she let Sayaka’s head rest against her bosom.


 

Mukuro didn’t know what possessed her to do such a thing for Sayaka. Perhaps memories of her time carrying the pop idol to the infirmary had something to do with it, or it could be some kind of maternal instinct that she’d never been aware of before. Either way, she didn’t say a word as she let the pop idol cry her heart out.

However, she did manage to shift her gaze over to Leon, who looked on the verge of tears himself. She kind of wanted him to join her and help to soothe Sayaka’s grievances but she wasn’t so naïve as to think it would be that easy.

It was the first time in all her life that she’d ever used physical contact to comfort someone…hell it was probably the first time she’d ever really tried to comfort anyone ever. Neither she nor her sister had ever needed that kind of consolation. Junko was always too busy reveling in the despair and Mukuro, being a soldier, never let the horror of her life affect her.

However, as she held onto Sayaka and gently stroked her hair, memories of the moment Junko had abandoned her rushed into her mind. And as she tightly hugged Sayaka to her chest, the Ultimate Soldier couldn’t help but feel the tiniest hint of jealousy.

“There was no one to hold me while I was in despair…” she briefly thought before gently shaking her head to expel all of her negative thoughts as she continued to soothe her classmate’s woes.


 

As Sayaka continued to weep, everyone in the room felt their anger for her begin to fade…aside from Byakuya, of course. In the midst of her weeping, he cleared his throat loudly, gathering everyone, including the grieving Sayaka’s, attention.

“Sorry to interrupt your little pity party but we still need to decide what needs to be done with these two,” he stoutly informed everyone, ignoring the furious glares he received, particularly from Leon and Junko. However, he scoffed at their gazes and continued, “Don’t look at me like that. You all knew this was coming, we decided to vote and I believe we’ve put it off long enough.”

A depressing silence dug into everyone as they realized they couldn’t put it off any longer.

Hina looked to Sakura for support but all the martial artist could do was shake her head solemnly. Even though he normally would have been ecstatic to lead the charge in the voting, Taka felt sickened by the nature of the vote and couldn’t bring himself to ask for it. Chihiro looked at everyone nervously not wanting to have to vote at all. Mondo, conflicted about how he should vote, hung his head and averted his gaze.

Toko, still in the thralls of excitement over Byakuya’s brave dealings with Monokuma, was ready to cast her vote right now if her white knight would take note of her. Celeste also seemed ready to vote; her decision had probably been made the moment Sayaka tried to throw a pillow at her. Hifumi opted to remain silent in the whole affair, knowing how he wanted to vote but otherwise unsure of how he could contribute to the situation. And Hiro didn’t really understand the need for the vote but knew which way he should vote regardless.

Sayaka still clutched onto Junko, afraid of what the verdict will be, and Leon remained rooted in place, unable to escape whatever fate his classmates chose for him. At the very least, it seemed that this vote wasn’t as life threatening as it had been the first time…that is, if Byakuya had been telling Monokuma the truth.

“Before we do that, I have a question.”

Startled, everyone turned to see Kyoko, who was still leaning against the far wall, staring directly at Byakuya.

“Go ahead,” the Affluent Progeny insisted, already anticipating her query.

“Did you mean it?” she asked carefully.

“Mean what?” he replied with skepticism.

“Everything you said to Monokuma, about isolating them instead of killing them. Or were you simply bluffing to force his hand?” she asked directly, leaving no room for misinterpretation.

There was another slight pause before Byakuya scoffed and folded his arms, glaring at her accusatorily. “Don’t make me laugh. My name is Byakuya Togami, my word is my oath. If I didn’t mean it, then I would never have said it.”

“And if we happen to vote the other way, you’ll abide by it?” Kyoko continued her questioning, her stoic features not budging an inch.

Byakuya’s eye slightly twitched at the implication she was making but other than that, he remained completely motionless as he replied, “As I said, a Togami never goes back on his word. Whatever the outcome, I will abide by it.”

Byakuya found it odd that she was pushing this so much but he didn’t have time to process it before she spoke again.

“Then I’d like to make an alteration to the vote,” she said purposefully before continuing, so no one could interrupt her. “If we decide to allow them to rejoin us, then someone will need to attend to Sayaka’s needs, at least until she fully recovers.”

“W-Wait a second—!” Sayaka tried to interject, finally releasing Junko from her grasp.

“Hmm, I can agree to that.” Everyone was shocked when Byakuya suddenly complied. However, the devious smirk on his face instantly put everyone back on edge. “However, I’d like to request that Leon be the one to look after Sayaka—”.

What?!” the pop idol practically shrieked, staring wide-eyed at the Affluent Progeny. “Why would Leon need to be the one to—?”

With a sideways glance, Byakuya cut her off as he explained, “If the two of you are together, and one of you ends up murdered, then we’ll have a suspect.”

“Also, it will serve as a form of punishment for both of you,” Celeste added with a sickly sweet smile. “That is what you wanted, isn’t Sayaka? To be punished for you crimes?”

Sayaka began to see red and was about to protest again when she was cut off by someone unexpected.

“I’m cool with that,” Leon complied quickly, shocking the pop idol into silence.

Before she could muster up the words to respond, Junko stepped away from her bed, turned to face him directly and asked, “You sure about this?”

It may not have seemed like much, but everyone knew it was a loaded question. However, unlike what everyone expected, the ballplayer didn’t hesitate.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” he answered solemnly, his eyes hardened with determination.

Sayaka felt her mouth go dry as he accepted the role. She wasn’t ready to be within a few feet of him, let alone be alone with him! And if he was the one who had to serve her meals and probably help her eat, since her dominate hand was out of commission, it would be beyond awkward. She couldn’t escape the guilt of what she’d done, she’d have to be reminded of it every time she saw him.

Then again, just as Celeste said, it was a fitting punishment for what she’d done. But then, was it fair to force Leon to suffer with her…?

Before she could really consider that notion, Taka finally regained the will to speak.

“S-So, I guess we should get down to the voting now,” he said carefully, trying to regain his former enthusiasm.

“Yeah, I’d like to get it over with as soon as we could. Alright?” Hiro almost pleaded, obviously not enjoying how long this had dragged out.

“But, uh, how exactly do we do the voting thing? And how do we make sure no one sees what we voted for?” Hina chimed in, fidgeting nervously.

“Indeed, confidentiality should be taken into consideration,” Sakura added, reassuring Hina if only slightly.

“I see no reason to hide any of our votes,” Byakuya cruelly answered, glancing around the room and speaking to everyone. “If you all feel strongly about your vote, then there should be no reason to hide it.”

“I…I suppose he has a point,” Hifumi reluctantly concurred, obviously not pleased with the idea either.

“So then, you’re asking us to vote but how would you like us to proceed with that?” Celeste questioned Byakuya, trying to get everyone back on track. “Will we be raising our hands or writing down our votes on paper?”

“A simple tally by raised hands should suffice,” Byakuya answered, narrowing his gaze at both Sayaka and Leon. “And of course, neither of you shall be voting.”

“R-Right…”

“Whatever…”

The two of them answered simultaneously, averting their gazes from everyone in the process.

With everyone ready, Byakuya stood in the center of the room and said, “Alright then, let’s begin. Everyone in favor of isolating Leon and Sayaka until further notice?”

Byakuya, Celeste, Hifumi, Hiro, Toko and surprisingly Mondo, all raised their hands. There was a bit of shock at seeing the bike gang leader’s decision but there was no time to dwell on it.

Taking the lead from there, Junko stepped forward and proclaimed, “All in favor of allowing Leon and Sayaka to rejoin our group?”

Kyoko, Hina, Sakura, Taka, Chihiro and Junko herself raised their hands. For a moment, everyone took a second to tally the votes but were disappointed with the results.

“Aw crap!!” Mondo said aloud, making everyone groan. “So what the hell do we do now? It’s an even split!”

“He’s right! We never established punishment games in the event of a tie!” Hifumi frantically pointed out, much to everyone’s chagrin.

“Actually, it’s not an even split.”

Everyone froze as Kyoko spoke up, her words earning raised brows and confused glances.

“That can’t be right!” Taka abruptly countered, holding up a piece of paper he must have had in his pocket. On the paper, he had tallied each person’s vote into two separate columns. “According to my chart, there are exactly twelve of us and six votes for each side. Therefore, we are at an impasse. We will simply have to keep voting until someone changes their—”.

“…Actually, as reluctant as I am to admit it, Kyoko is correct.” Byakuya’s smooth voice interrupted Taka’s ramblings, not giving his classmate the chance to finish.

“But…how can that be?” Hina joined in, now very confused. “There are only twelve of us, if you don’t count Sayaka or Leon.”

A smirk appeared on Byakuya’s lips, chuckling as he answered, “A simple case of addition keeps you from seeing the answer. How sad…”

“What?! Are you calling me stupid or something?!” the swimmer shouted, glaring at him angrily as she was held back by Sakura.

“Please get to the point,” the Ultimate Martial Artist insisted, her voice deadly serious. “Now isn’t the time for games.”

With a hint of frustration in his voice, the Togami Heir continued, “There is one more person whose vote was not accounted for. The only one of us who isn’t present.”

It took the confused students all of two seconds to understand who he was referring to, but only Sayaka found the courage to say it aloud.

“…Makoto.”

“Exactly.” Byakuya further explained, “Since we know that he would vote for them to rejoin us, that brings the vote up seven to six, in favor of them rejoining.”

Even as he said that, Sayaka felt as though she hadn’t really won. In fact, a small part of her wished to be isolated, to be kept away from everyone and avoid facing her crimes head on. And Byakuya must have been keenly aware of that, because less than a moment later, he smirked fiendishly toward her and Leon. He didn’t have to say anything, it was all in his expression. He was enjoying knowing how difficult it was going to be having to be around each other so often.

And to top it all off, he promised to abide by the outcome of the vote, so he obviously had no intention of helping them. Not that they expected him to do any such thing anyway.

As the reality of their new situation set in on them, Junko turned and smiled at both of them before saying, “Look at it this way, you’ll have plenty of time to work out your issues now. Why don’t you help Sayaka to her room, Leon? I’m sure she wants to rest after all that’s happened.”

“Y-Yeah, sure…”

For the first time in what felt like ages, Leon turned toward Sayaka and she made the fatal mistake of glancing over to him as well. The instant their eyes met, she felt the same fear and apprehension that had overtaken her the previous night. This was her punishment.

She had brought this on herself and this time, there was nothing she could do about it.


 

“At least everything worked out. For now anyway,” Leon thought as he and Sayaka made it past the cafeteria and into the red-tinted dorm hall.

As they approached the dorm room, Leon instinctively began to turn toward the door labeled: Sayaka. However, the injured pop idol visibly winced as he shifted his weight against her. Shocked at her sudden display of pain, the ballplayer ceased all movement, holding her up as cautiously as he could.

“W-Whoa! What’s wrong?” he carefully asked, trying his best not to sound surprised.

With a slight glare, Sayaka shifted her gaze to him and said, “You moved too quickly in a different direction. Why the hell do we need to go right for, anyway?”

“Well…because this is your room,” Leon explained nodding his head toward the door. Taking one look at the door, an exhausted sigh escaped Sayaka’s lips and she furrowed her brows in frustration.

“Leon…That’s Makoto’s room…I’m the next door down.”

The ballplayer felt like face-palming but his hands were too full. Instead a hint of red stained his cheeks as he embarrassedly said, “Oh…yeah.” Without another word, he continued to hobble down the hallway with Sayaka in tow, reaching her actual dorm in only a few moments.

Turning the handle and pulling open the door, Leon shuffled the both of them inside. The instant he was in the room, he paused. It was so incredibly…plain. There were no posters, no make-up kits, no dresser to apply said make-up at, hell there was no pop idol type stuff in there at all! Aside from the sheets of her bed being pink, there was absolutely no indication that this was a girl’s room at all…well aside from the pleasantly female aroma that filled his nostrils.

For some reason, it was oddly comforting to him…although he couldn’t quite tell why. It should have been more alluring than anything but, truth be told; it was more familiar than he thought possible. But he didn’t let that thought stray too far before he continued looking around her room.

It was like everything had been removed or something, which was exactly the opposite of his room. When he’d returned to his own room, he’d found his baseball equipment, a good deal of his rock posters and even his own electric guitar set was ready and waiting for him. It was all stuff he’d shipped to the school before his arrival so he hadn’t been that surprised to see it, but it wasn’t until now that he realized how strange it was.

Why did his room have so much of his stuff but Sayaka seemed to have nothing? She must have sent her belongings to the school before she arrived, the same as he did, so why did she—?

“Hey…would you let me sit down?” Sayaka’s voice snapped him back to reality as he realized that he must have been standing there for quite some time.

“Y-Yeah,” he said quickly, shaking off the strange feeling that thought had given him.

Moving over to the bed, Sayaka practically pushed herself away from him when she was close enough, plopping down on the bed. Not two seconds after she’d separated from him, she said, “Thanks, you can go.”

Leon felt his eye twitch at her attitude. Sure, she’d said the words but there was practically no gratitude in her voice as she’d thanked him. And the way she insisted that he be gone also hurt just a bit. However, it wasn’t as if he didn’t understand. He’d probably be acting the same if the person who’d almost killed him had to take care of him.

Even so, she doesn’t have to be so pushy about it…” he thought to himself as he took a few steps back. “It’s not like it’s easy to carry a person down three hallways, especially since I haven’t really eaten today—!”

Leon’s eyes widened slightly as he realized that, not only had he neglected to eat, Sayaka hadn’t even had the chance to eat since she’d awoken. And with everything that had happened, she must be starving.

“So, uh, are you hungry or—?”

“No, I’m not.”

A deep frown formed on Leon’s face as she blatantly refused. “Seriously? You haven’t eaten for like two days.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m not hungry,” she sternly replied, not even looking at him as she slid over to lie down in the center of the bed. “So just go already.”

Leon really didn’t want to get mad at her, he wanted to calmly explain why she needed to eat and convince her to let him get her something. However, he utterly failed at that notion.

“Look, I know you’re not happy with this but you gotta eat something,” he said sternly, getting more and more frustrated. “You gotta eat to get your strength back and stuff right? Even if you’re not hungry, you have to eat something—”.

He was surprised when Sayaka snapped her head over to glare at him, her eyes narrowed angrily. The ballplayer involuntarily flinched at the sight, it reminded him far too much of the fury she’d had the night before last, although there certainly was a lack of bloodlust in her eyes this time.

“What’s it going to take to get you to leave me alone?” Sayaka seethed, blatantly spelling out her desire to him.

However, Leon didn’t back down and returned her angry glare as he replied, “Let me bring you some food and I’ll leave you alone for the rest of the night. Deal?”

For a second, they stared at each other in frustration, neither of them willing to back down. This was exactly what both of them worried was going to happen and it seemed that their situation was going to continue on until one of them finally gave him.

Surprisingly, it was Sayaka that broke down first, heaving a great sigh as she averted her gaze and said, “…Fine. Just be quick about it.” And with that, she rolled over to completely turn her back to him.

Again, her tone infuriated him but at the very least, she was going to get some food. It was a minor victory but at least Leon felt as if he’d accomplished something.

“Alright, what do you want?” he asked, prepared for whatever she might request.

“I don’t care as long as it’s edible.”

Okay, so he wasn’t quite as ready as he’d expected. There was a crap ton of food in the cafeteria and deciding what she should eat would not be an easy task. However, Leon told himself that he should just be happy she was willing to eat and turned to head for the door.

“Alright, I’ll be back inna bit. Don’t go anywhere…”

The words had fallen out of his mouth before he’d even realized it. A twinge of guilt prodded at his heart as he realized that, even if she wanted to, she was in no condition to go anywhere. And even if she could, there was nowhere to go, not with them trapped in this deathtrap of a school. Forcing that thought from his mind, the ballplayer decided to focus his thoughts on what food he should get for her, exiting the room without another word.

As the door closed, Sayaka briefly turned back to glance at the doorway, a hint of moisture glinting in the corner of her eyes.


 

“What the hell am I supposed to do now?” Mondo wondered aloud as he sat with his feet propped up on one of the cafeteria tables.

After they’d finished deciding what to do about Sayaka and Leon, everyone had pretty much gone their separate ways. Mondo had been feeling hungry so he’d come here to get a snack and found himself not knowing what to do next. He wasn’t tired and it was still pretty early, so he had no reason to go back to his room. He’d been there for almost fifteen minutes and still, he just couldn’t decide what he needed to do.

“I ain’t never been good at thinking about this kinda crap. Why can’t I just beat the crap outta the mastermind and force ‘em to—?”

In the middle of his rambling, the doors to the cafeteria opened and Mondo lazily turned his gaze to see who it was. However, upon seeing the red-haired baseball player entering the room, the biker quickly tensed and averted his gaze.

Shit…what the hell is he doing here?” Mondo pondered for a brief moment before groaning as he remembered he was in the food court, where anyone could get food.

Honestly, the real issue was that Mondo just wasn’t ready to face the ballplayer quite yet. After all, he’d openly voted to lock up both Leon and Sayaka. At the time, it seemed like the best option to make sure nothing bad happened, but after seeing people like Chihiro and Kyoko voting to let them stay, he felt a bit ashamed.

He felt like he could trust people like Chihiro and Kyoko, the first because of her honest nature and the latter because she was really freaking smart during the trial. If he had known they were gonna vote to let them stay, he may have changed his vote. Then again, he was still kind of worried about what Sayaka or Leon might try to do…he thought?

Uhg, I really am no good at this thinking crap!” he berated himself as he remained rooted to his seat.

He hadn’t even noticed that Leon had already gone to the kitchen and was already returning with a plate of food. Mondo had no intention of saying anything; he still wasn’t quite sure what to feel about Leon…or Sayaka for that matter. Sure, he’d kinda forgiven them since no one had actually died but it was still pretty complicated and he just didn’t know how to deal with it.

However, as the ballplayer passed by him this time, the biker absentmindedly blurted, “So, that for you or did Miss Pop Idol get the munchies?”

Mondo was trying to be casual and just talk to Leon like he would have before everything that went down but even he realized how insensitive his comment had been. He watched as Leon flinched but didn’t stop moving.

“It’s for Sayaka…” was all Leon replied, pushing open the cafeteria door and exiting without really acknowledging the biker.

Almost instantly after Leon had gone, Mondo felt his blood boil. Pulling his feet off the table, Mondo furiously grabbed an innocent chair with one hand, lifted it up high and slammed it into the floor with a furious shout. As the sound of the now smashed chair echoed in the cafeteria, the biker clenched his fists tightly.

“It’s not like I wanted to vote for you!” the biker seethed, his anger overshadowing his reason.

Mondo felt his shame begin to overtake him. He needed to let his anger out somehow and if he had to smash every single chair in the room, then that’s what was gonna happen! However, before he could grab another defenseless chair, the doors to the cafeteria burst open.

“What is going on in here?!” the voice of Taka erupted, making the biker snap his head to glare at the Ultimate Moral Compass as he entered the room. “I should have known it was you, Mondo! Can’t you cease your delinquent activities until we’ve found a way to escape?!”

Just seeing the rule obsessed dipshit made the fury Mondo struggled to contain overflow and he narrowed his gaze at his classmate as he said, “Dude…I am in no fucking mood for your bullshit…”


 

*Tick*…*Tick*…*Tick*…*Tick*

The hour hand of the wall clock was barely past ‘8’, while the minute hand was already nearing the ‘6’. So much time had passed and it seemed like no one had noticed it. The clock on the wall continued to count the time as it passed, oblivious to the grief stricken Pop Idol sitting upright in her bed.

Sayaka stared downward almost lifelessly, not knowing or really caring what she should be doing now. She hugged her knees to her chest; ignoring the ache this caused her wounds. She’d taken her broken wrist out of the sling, setting the sling itself beside her on the bed, and let her injured arm rest atop her knees, a visible reminder of her crime.

Beside her bed, on a small serving table that must have come from the storage room, was a platter of fresh food that Leon had brought for her. He’d said very little, their confrontation from earlier obviously still affecting him, and had only stayed for a moment before departing. That was almost an hour ago and still she hadn’t touched her meal.

Feeling a bit ashamed by the awful comments she shouted at him earlier, she couldn’t stop herself from glancing over at the tray to see what he’d brought her. A turkey sandwich with lettuce, accompanied by an apple and a bottle of water. All foods she could eat with one hand. Leon had gone the extra mile and even unscrewed the lid of the water bottle for easier access. Unshed tears moistened the corners of her eyes and she quickly wiped them away, averting her gaze from the platter.

“Why…why is he…being so…nice to me?” she slowly spoke, choking back a sob. “I tried to…I tried to…”

Squeezing her eyes shut, she buried her face in her knees, refusing to let any tears fall from her eyes. Her stomach wound ached and her broken wrist was numb but she barely paid it any mind, letting a different kind of darkness begin to consume her.

Suddenly, a knock came from her door.

Her head shot up and she stared wide-eyed toward the small hallway that led to her door. She waited a moment, unsure if she had really head the noise or not, but only a few seconds later, someone rapped on the door again. In truth, Sayaka didn’t want to acknowledge it was happening, opting to bury her head in her knees again. But just as before, the knocking came and disrupted her thoughts.

A small part of her mind considered that this might be a trap, like the one she’d set for Leon. But even if that was the case, she didn’t feel that she had the right to resist. Of course, she didn’t want to die but she also didn’t want to keep on living with such crushing guilt any longer.

Perhaps that’s why, even though she knew she was going against her better judgment, she made the decision to answer the door.

Picking up her arm sling, she slung her arm through it as she inched closer to the edge of her bed. Slowly stretching her legs over the side of her bed, she carefully lifted herself up, standing on her own for the first time since the incident. Her legs were weak and wobbly but somehow, she found the strength to take the smallest of steps toward the door. They were baby-steps and she was barely able to lift each foot off the ground as she progressed, but little by little, she made her way toward the door.

The knocking continued, albeit not as frequently as before, but enough for her to know that whoever was summoning her was still there.

“I-It’s probably Leon…” Sayaka surmised as she neared the door, “He just doesn’t know how to take a hint…”

Her comment was meant to ease her frazzled nerves, which had been growing more frantic with each step closer to the door. However, she couldn’t deny the fear that welled up, thinking that it may be someone here to do her harm. But it was too late to turn back now, she was already at the door, twisting the handle and slowly pulling it open.

Opening the heavy door just a crack, she peered outside and said, “Y-Yes…”

“Um…Sayaka?” a nervous but familiar voice called out.

Sayaka’s blood froze and her eyes widened as Makoto came into view just beyond her door. Her hand slipped from the door handle, inadvertently opening it wider, allowing both parties to get a good look at each other.

For a few moments, neither of them spoke or even moved, aside from the tiniest bit of trembling that began to overtake Sayaka. A new kind of fear was overwhelming her as she was now face to face with one of the people she’d manipulated. At that moment, the terror of facing death seemed insignificant compared to the horror of having to live with her crimes.

“Can I…come in?” Makoto finally asked, speaking quietly.

Despite her mind practically shouting not to allow him in, Sayaka found herself replying, “S-Sure…”

Backing away from the door, Makoto took slow steps as he entered the room and shut the door behind him. Without waiting for him to say anything, Sayaka turned and slowly began making her way back toward her bed. Her movements were slow and she knew that if she asked he would have helped her, but she couldn’t bring herself to do that.

“I’ve done enough to him already…”

As she expected of him, Makoto was very patient and waited as she slowly reached her bed and sat down. It was then that Sayaka lifted her gaze and finally took a good long look at him.

To her torture, Makoto still appeared quite tired, even after sleeping for so long. His clothes were ruffled and his hair was a mess. He probably hadn’t even showered before coming over to see her, which showed just how concerned he must be for her.

“Did he really…stay up all night and watch over me…after all I’ve done to him?” Sayaka wondered as she took in his disheveled appearance.

As she looked him over, her eyes lifted up to see him anxiously glancing her way and she immediately averted her gaze, dropping it down to stare at the carpet.

“So, uh, you seem to be getting around alright,” Makoto abruptly commented, nervously scratching his head. Out of the corner of her eye, Sayaka saw him glancing around the room until he spotted the platter of food. “Oh, so Leon brought you something to eat? I heard that he was gonna be the one bringing you food until you felt better. I…uh, I know that probably isn’t easy for either of you so…if you want, I can—”.

“What do you want, Makoto?” Sayaka suddenly found herself saying, her tone harsher than she’d wanted.

However, she couldn’t stand to hear him talking about any of this anymore. He was still the same as always, so kind and considerate, willing to do anything to help her. His honest and pure nature should have been comforting…but she couldn’t see it that way anymore. Not after she’d manipulated his compassionate nature to try and commit murder. She just wanted to hear what he had to say and send him away, his very presence making her uneasy.

She realized that her words must of taken him aback because for a moment, Makoto opted to stay silent. However, it didn’t seem to take him long to recover before he spoke up again.

“There’s…something I need to ask you, Sayaka.”

His stern tone startled the pop idol and against her better judgment, she lifted her head up. She barely managed to hold in her shock as she saw the serious expression on his face. Not once since they’d been trapped here had he made such a face, and in that moment, she suddenly understood how the tender-hearted Makoto had been able to be a driving force in the class trial. Sakura had told her that he had been the most adamant about solving the case and pursued it relentlessly, even after discovering her betrayal half-way through.

Despite being unnerved by his determined visage, she kept her shock to herself as she replied, “Go ahead.”

“I need to know…” he began slowly, as if working up the courage himself. “From the very beginning, since we all got trapped in here…were you just using me the entire time?”

Sayaka thought she was prepared for anything he could say, that nothing he could possibly ask of her would break her, but she was wrong. Even if externally, she showed absolutely not sign of change, on the inside she felt her conscience being twisted and pulled asunder.

She wanted to tell him the truth, tell him that she had honestly befriended him because she felt comfortable around him, because she’d admired him long before she’d become an idol. But she just couldn’t do it; the words just didn’t come, trapped inside by the guilt that was tearing her soul apart.

And then it hit her, she realized what she needed to do to protect him. She knew that this was her one and only chance to do the right thing…no matter how horrible it would seem.

Without hesitation, she furrowed her brows and answered, “Of course. I thought you figured that out already.”

A look of genuine shock and hurt spread over Makoto’s face as he heard her, his determined and stern visage from before completely vanishing. And as it did, Sayaka felt her heart breaking as she watched him avert his gaze. She knew she was hurting him and that he, above everyone else, didn’t deserve that. But she also knew it had to be done.

“Well, yeah, I guess I did…” Makoto stammered, as if trying to convince himself before abruptly shooting his gaze back to her. “But Kyo—ehh, someone else thought that…maybe the reason you wrote Leon’s name on the wall was to…protect me?”

Sayaka felt her insides twist as he hit the nail on the head but knew she couldn’t acknowledge it. So instead, she grunted angrily and replied, “Don’t be so naïve, Makoto. I obviously did it just to get back at Leon. I wanted everyone to know who had…attacked me. It was just a coincidence that it helped you too.”

“B-But—!”

Makoto seemed on the verge of arguing with her, as if he truly didn’t want her words to be true. And Sayaka knew that if she was going to convince him, she was going to have to do the unforgiveable…

“Get it through your thick head, loser!” she abruptly shouted, gritting her teeth and glaring at him. “Did you really think that someone like me would willingly associate with someone as pathetic as you?”

“That can’t be true! We’re friends! You…you apologized for what you did to me and Leon!” Makoto fired back, doing his best to deny what he was hearing.

His words dug into her and Sayaka clenched the fist of her good hand to keep from breaking down and admitting the truth. However, somehow, she found the resolve to continue the charade.

“I do regret what I’ve done…but that doesn’t change anything.” Slowly, she lifted her head and practically sneered, “I don’t want anything to do with you anymore. We’re not friends. We never were and we never will be. You were just a means to an end. So, will you just get out of here and leave me alone!”

As her words echoed in the small room, she was never more appreciative of the dorms being soundproof. What she’d said was completely unforgiveable and she didn’t want anyone else to hear. Forcing Makoto to listen to it was horrific enough…

Continuing to glare fiercely at him, Sayaka was forced to watch as all of the color drained from Makoto’s face. She could practically see the hurt she’d caused him as he hung his head, tears glistening in his eyes. Even so, she kept her angered visage intact, knowing that if she broke now, everything she’d done would be for nothing.

Finally, after nearly an entire minute of silence, Makoto finally spoke, “I see…I’ll leave you be then.”

His voice was beyond dejected and as he turned around his features saddened as he tried to keep the hurt inside. With slow steps, he began moving toward the door, never looking back.

All the while, Sayaka kept reminding herself that she had done the right thing.

“I can’t hurt him anymore…He needs to stay away from me or else I may hurt him again…That’s why…That’s why…I can’t…I can’t…”

She was managing to hold on, her angry features not flinching in the least as Makoto departed. However, just he reached the door and opened it; he did something she never would have expected.

Wiping away what must have been tears with his sleeve, Makoto slowly glanced over his shoulder. His eyes were closed but he had the warmest smile she’d ever seen from him plastered over his face, as if forgiving her for everything.

“I hope you get better soon…”

That was all he said before he turned away and exited her room, slowly closing the door behind him. But those words had more of an impact than Makoto would ever realize.

The instant she heard those words, Sayaka’s façade came crashing down. Tears spilled from her eyes, rolling down her cheeks and she reached out her good hand, as if to try and stop him from leaving. However, he was already gone…the damage she’d done was irreversible. She’d been trying to protect him but had only hurt him so much more…and even then he didn’t give up on her! He still cared for her despite all that she’d said, despite insinuating that their friendship was a farce! He valued their friendship, cherished it more than she could ever have known!

He still believed in her after all she’d done…and she’d cruelly turned her back on him.

A heavy silence engulfed the room for a few moments but it was quickly shattered as Sayaka burst into tears. She collapsed on her bed and buried her face in her pillow, weeping uncontrollably and not caring that her despair was being recorded by the camera above her.


 

Sayaka had absolutely no idea that, in his haste to get out of her room, Makoto hadn’t completely shut the door, leaving it open just enough for sound to be heard. However, he’d already made his way over and into his own room before he could have heard anything. And in addition to that, he also hadn’t noticed a certain red-haired baseball star leaning against a nearby wall.

And whether he intended to or not, Leon found himself listening intently as Sayaka’s weeping filled the otherwise empty hallway.

However, he felt that he had absolutely no right to even go near her right now. No matter how much he wanted to comfort her and tell her that none of this was her fault, he knew that he would never be able to do that. He’d destroyed any possibility of that happening the moment he’d accidentally stabbed her.

Unable to force himself to listen to her sobs, he slowly approached her door and gently closed it, hoping that she didn’t notice. Once the door was closed, keeping her cries from resounding through the halls, Leon found himself sighing deeply as his stomach grumbled.

“I never did get anything for myself,” he remembered, slowly shifting his weight to walk down the hall, toward the cafeteria.

As he neared the food court doors, he was too distracted by his own hunger and conflicting emotions to notice the voices of his two classmates arguing loudly.


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

“Okay, so you need me to what now?” Leon questioned, unsure of how or why he’d ended up unable to leave the cafeteria.

“We need you to preside over our battle, as a witness!” Taka proclaimed, aiming his finger at Leon as if he was the only one capable of such a task.

An audible scoff from Mondo drew their attention, the biker folding his arms as he said, “Don’t worry, it’ll be over quick. There’s no way I’m losing to a pansy-ass like him.”

“How dare you!” Taka immediately countered, “At least I have the dignity to respect you as an opponent, regardless of how unruly and disrespectful you are!”

Narrowing his gaze, Mondo seethed through gritted teeth, “You think you can look down on me, you piece of shit?!”

Leon groaned and hung his head as the two continued to bicker. He’d only gone to the cafeteria to get a bit of food before bed, he hadn’t expected to find the biker and the moral compass arguing about which of them was the better man. And apparently, they couldn’t settle their differences unless someone else was present to verify who the victor was.

“So that’s the situation! Your cooperation would be most appreciated!” Taka shouted, again pointing at Leon.

“Uhg…I just wanted a sandwich, dammit…” the ballplayer mumbled as the two of them turned to him. “Fine…whatever. So, are you gonna throw down here or should we go to the gym or something?”

At that, the two combatants fell silent and Leon realized that neither of them had thought this through. Not that he really expected them to but at the very least he’d figured they had some idea of where and how they were going to settle their differences. However, much to his surprise, Mondo suddenly grinned and pounded his fist into his palm.

“I got it! There’s a bathhouse across the hall, right? With a sauna?”

“Aha! So a simple test of endurance, is it?” Taka immediately understood, ready to depart at a moment’s notice. “We’re going to see who can stay in there the longest, am I right?!”

“Goddamn straight!!” Mondo instantly confirmed, pounding his fists together.

“Alright then, let’s be off!” Taka announced, striding toward the door.

Walking right next to him, Mondo excitedly replied, “Yeah, let’s do this!”

As Leon watched them heading off toward the bathhouse, an audible sigh escaped him. “How the hell can they go from arguing to agreeing in less than ten seconds?”

It was strange indeed. Despite their fierce bickering, they decided on the endurance contest without hardly saying a word to each other. What’s more, they seemed almost…happy to be competing against each other. Then again, they were both guys and guys had to prove who had the bigger dick to justify themselves.

Even so, Leon couldn’t shake this strange feeling of déjà vu that overtook him. Well, it wasn’t really déjà vu, but this whole thing definitely felt nostalgic for some reason. As if he’d seen something like this happen before—

“Hey! Hurry the hell up! We don’t got all night!” the voice of Mondo called from the hall, startling him and making him lose his train of thought

“Alright, alright, I’m coming!” he shouted back, putting his hands in his pockets and heading for the sauna, regretting not picking up an apple or something before they noticed he was falling behind.

As the three of them pushed aside the curtains and entered the bathhouse, none of them noticed the towering figure that watched them from the shadows.


 

Junko tapped her foot as she waited, a beyond bored expression obscuring her beautiful features.

“Where the hell is she?” she grumbled as she sat in the Monokuma control room. In front of her, the camera in Monokuma’s red eye watched the staircase connecting the first and second floor. “Seriously…I know that I wrote for her to meet Monokuma on the second floor just after the nighttime announcement. What’s the deal?”

She was about to abandon her post and move back to the surveillance room to check the cameras when, almost immediately after her complaint, she saw the hulking figure of Sakura ascending the staircase up to the second floor.

“About time…” Junko muttered as she readjusted her seat and took control of the half and half bear.


 

“Tardy! Late! Unpunctual! Overdue! Not here on time!” Monokuma screeched, waving its arms furiously as Sakura reached the top of the stairway. The Ultimate Martial Artist’s face was as still as stone, without even a hint of expression visible.

“I apologize. It will not happen again,” she replied stoically, not making any such excuses. However, that only seemed to further infuriate the already fuming Monokuma because the bear grunted and turned its back to her.

“Since this is your first offense, I’m willing to let it slide…” Monokuma retorted, turning only its head back to glare at her. “But be sure this doesn’t become a habit. I’d hate to have to renege on our arrangement because you couldn’t get your ass in gear.”

“I understand…” Sakura acknowledged, still not showing a hint of emotion. On the inside, however, the tiniest feeling of relief washed over her as the bear didn’t seem keen on insisting about why she had been tardy.

The truth was that she had seen three of her classmates: Leon, Mondo, and Taka, heading for the bathhouse just before the Nighttime Announcement was set to play. And despite wanting to believe that no foul-play could be involved, she couldn’t stop herself from shadowing them. However, upon overhearing of the contest the men had forced upon themselves, she allowed herself to be at ease, if only slightly.

She would have preferred to stay and keep watch over the preceding, just in case the situation turned grim. However, she knew that their captor demanded her presence and when the Nighttime Announcement sounded, she realized that she had almost forgotten about meeting with the Mastermind. As such, she tore herself away from the spectacle.

Her only reassurance came at the sight of Leon being the one to preside over the event. Having witnessed his transformation after discovering that Sayaka had not been slain by his hand, Sakura felt that she could put her faith in him. After all, she had trusted him enough to vote to allow him to return to the group. And even if there was a gnawing feeling of uncertainty because of the whole affair, she had forced it aside as she begrudgingly went to report to Monokuma.

“My betrayal…is far more wretched than Leon’s ever was…”

She had feared that Monokuma would have seen her on the cameras and questioned why she’d decided to leave them be but, for reasons she couldn’t make sense of, it seemed that the Mastermind hadn’t seen her shadowing them. Or, possibly it could be that the mastermind had seen her but didn’t think much of the event. In either case, she was pleased that the bear had neglected to bring up the matter. And although it was clear that Monokuma was displeased with her simple responses, the bear also seemed aware that time was of the essence.

“Follow me,” it said before waddling down the hallway.

“Where are we going?” Sakura dared to ask, maintaining her composure despite how disgusted she felt with herself.

“You’ll see…” the bear gleefully answered as they made their way toward the staircase leading up to the third floor.


 

“You sure you guys wanna do this right now? It’s already Nighttime...” Leon tried to reason with them, despite knowing how pointless it was.

“So? What’s your fucking point? It doesn’t matter what time we do this!” Mondo menacingly replied, glaring at the ballplayer for his insinuation. “It’s not like you were doing anything else anyway.”

“Yeah because feeding myself is pointless compared to your dick measuring contest!” Leon thought silently, doing his best to keep from losing his cool. Which wasn’t easy now that he had to contend with the extreme heat of the bathhouse.

“All you gotta do is just shut up and judge us, nothing else!” Mondo tried to reassure him, failing miserably.

“Oh don’t worry; I’m definitely judging you…” Leon seethed.

With an appreciative grin and a thumbs up, Mondo happily replied, “That’s the spirit!”

At this, Leon found his palm slapping into his face, rubbing his temples to try and keep sane. Just then, a hand landed on his shoulder and the ballplayer looked over to see Taka giving him a reassuring smile.

“Don’t worry. This won’t take long.” The Ultimate Moral Compass almost seemed to smirk as he glared at Mondo. “He’ll be done in a matter of minutes. People like him are, without exception, all talk!”

Clearly overhearing that overconfident comment, Mondo slowly turned and fixated his vengeful gaze on Taka. “If that’s how you’re gonna be, let’s make this interesting!” the biker abruptly shouted, cracking his knuckles simultaneously.

“Please don’t…” Leon pleaded, only to be outright ignored by both of them.

“We’re gonna do this…with all of our clothes on!!!” Mondo shouted so loud that, if the student’s rooms hadn’t been soundproof, it would have awoken everyone.

Shocked by both his volume and his overwhelming stupidity, Leon’s jaw dropped as he tried to comprehend how someone like Mondo could be the leader of any kind of group, much less a biker gang.

“How does his gang survive being led by such a freaking idiot?!”

As if having the exact same thought, Taka stammered as he said, “T-That’s ridiculous! Suicidal even! You can’t wear your clothes in—!”

“Oh, pussin’ out before we even get started! I shoulda known you wouldn’t be able to handle it!” Mondo bellowed boisterously as Taka gritted his teeth, his face reddening with anger.

“Don’t…don’t underestimate me!!”

Faster than either Leon or Mondo could have predicted, Taka flung his shirt off, kicked away his pants and already had his towel wrapped around his waist. Standing there, in his half-naked glory, the Ultimate Moral Compass clenched both hands into fists as he shouted, “You’re going to regret not taking me seriously!”

Unenthused by Taka’s sudden manly display, Mondo angrily replied, “Shut up and let’s do this thing!!”

With a manly, and possibly crazy, shout from the two of them, the combatants dashed toward the sauna at blinding speed, leaving Leon standing there awkwardly.

“Okay, so…what the hell am I supposed to do now?”


 

The gentle hum of the laptop fan could very well have been a symphony to Chihiro’s ears as she smiled to herself and she wiped a hint of sweat from her forehead.

“Huh…that was a lot easier than I thought,” she said, astounded by how smoothing things seemed to be going.

It had taken the better part of the evening but she finally had a way of powering the dusty laptop she’d recovered from the library. Using the cord from her desk lamp, she had managed to convert it into a source of power for the laptop’s battery. She had to practically jury rig it, but with the tools in her toolkit, it proved to be a much easier task than she’d expected.

“Good thing Dad always watched that ‘Mac Gaiver’ show or whatever it was called,” she mused to herself, thinking that she probably wouldn’t have considered using the lamp cord if not for the creative thinking that had rubbed off on her because of her father’s love for that show.

Her dad liked watching a number of American innovational shows and he considered Mr. Gaiver to be one of the most creative minds to ever come out of America. She remembered her father telling her that, even if there didn’t seem like there was a way to build something, there was always a way! The determination her father displayed is what ultimately inspired Chihiro to become the computing expert she was today.

Unfortunately, the memory of her father only dampened her mood, her mind wandering back to her DVD. The bright flames engulfing her home…her father rushing into the inferno…

“No…I can’t think about that right now!”

Pushing aside all distracting thoughts, she opened up the laptop, a fragile smiled forming as it began to boot up.


 

“My cock’s bigger than your cock…my cock’s twice the size as your cock…” Leon sang to himself as he leaned against the wall adjacent to the sauna. “Seriously, how much longer is this thing going to take…?”

It had been quite some time since Mondo and Taka had gone in and, apart from the occasional gripe, neither of them seemed to be close to giving up yet. Every so often, Leon would walk over and peek through the window in the door; just to be sure the two of them were still conscious. A part of him hoped they’d both pass out and he could just drag them back to their rooms.

He would need to get up early and get to the cafeteria before anyone else and staying up half the night because of the dick measuring contest would make that harder. Yeah, he could survive not eating for tonight and just getting something tomorrow but he also had to be sure and check on Sayaka in the morning…even if she didn’t appreciate having him around.

“That’s an emotional mine field all on its own…” Leon muttered as a heavy sigh escaped him. Glancing up at the wall clock, and discovering that two whole hours had passed since the dude-bro contest had commenced, the weary baseball player knew he might end up being here all night.

Taking a risk, he pushed off the wall and walked over to the sauna door. “C’mon guys! It’s already past midnight. Can’t you just call it a tie—?”

“SHUT UP!!!” they shouted in unison from within, startling him.

“In a…true competition…there’s no such thing as…as a tie!” he heard Taka protest, sounding quite winded by the experience.

“Look at you…trying to talk…big…dumbass…” he overheard Mondo grumbling, which sparked more testosterone filled arguing from both of them.

Leon face palmed as he realized he’d inadvertently reignited their passions for the contest. “Whatever! Do what you want…I’m outta here,” he whined, unsure if they even heard him over their cocky banter.

Throwing his arms up in a gesture of giving up, he suddenly flinched as a dull ache in his abdomen tore through him. Tenderly placing a hand over the spot where he’d been struck by the baseball, Leon winced, the pain bringing him back to his senses. Each time this happened, whenever he felt the stinging sensation from yellowish-blue bruises on his stomach, he couldn’t stop the images from the previous day from flooding his mind.

Tied to a metal pole, unable to protect himself as the baseballs smashed into him, the looks of pity and terror on his classmates’ faces as they watched what would have been his execution…it felt so far away and yet somehow closer than he’d ever imagined possible. And with that horrifying imagery, a single thought repeated over and over in his mind:

It was an accident…I never meant for it to happen...

Lifting his gaze up and staring at the sauna door, Leon couldn’t shake the feeling that another ‘accident’ might occur if he abandoned his classmates now. He also considered what might happen if both of them were too stubborn to leave and both of them ended up frying in there overnight. It was selfish, he knew it was, but a part of him feared that, if they died of heat exhaustion due to him not being there to pull them out…would Monokuma see that as murder?

I mean, even though it was an accident…I was still the one blamed and punished for Sayaka’s ‘death’.

He knew that this was a very different situation compared to what had happened between him and Sayaka, but the fear of Monokuma’s silver tongue and penchant for punishments was keeping him from leaving his two classmates to die from stupidity.

Just then, as if fate decided to prove him right, he heard the tired voice of Taka mumble something from within the sauna. It was barely above a whisper and he didn’t catch all of it, but what he did hear was:

“…plenty…to go…eat…hot boiling soup…”

Taken aback by the sudden change in the moral compass’ attitude, Leon stepped closer to the door, only to be assaulted with another barely inaudible phrase, this time from Mondo.

“…hot spring…monkey… gates…of hell…”

Leon’s eyes widened as shock coursed through him. Both of them seemed to be muttering incoherent phrases to each other and since they were speaking so quietly, it was hard to know if he was even hearing them correctly. However, what they were saying didn’t really matter anymore.

Dammit, their stupid brains must be boiling! But if I tell them to get out, it’ll just make them want to stay longer because they’re stupid!

Groaning and resting his head against the door, Leon knew he was running out of time. Even so, he hesitated. If he rushed in there and tried to force them to leave, would things somehow end up the way they had with Sayaka? He didn’t want to believe it, but then again, he’d thought something similar when he’d busted in the bathroom door.

Only this time, if he waited too long, both of them would die regardless…which actually left him with little choice in the matter.

“Fuck it…”


 

“Step into my office,” Monokuma said as it held the door for Sakura. The martial artist did as instructed and was greeted by a surprising sight.

A well-furnished REC room; complete with a pool table, dart board and fully stocked magazine rack stood before her. And that wasn’t the biggest shock. No, that came in the form of a tray of tea and cookies sitting on the coffee table in the center of the room.

Bringing me up to the third floor, showing me a room none of the others know exists, and providing tea and snacks for both of us…the Mastermind certainly is a bold one.

Although these discoveries might seem rather ordinary for most, Sakura could discern a great deal about the Mastermind from this small gesture.

Firstly; by taking her up to a higher floor, it also meant they had privacy, since Monokuma had relocked the metal gate on the stairway after they had passed through. She had expected to report to Monokuma in the gym or somewhere on the first or second floor. Being led up to the third showed that the Mastermind wasn’t concerned with her knowing what might be on this floor.

Secondly; if they had a tea set, then they had to have the resources to clean and maintain them. Sakura had thought that the reason the cafeteria was closed each evening was to allow the Mastermind the ability to obtain food for themselves. And if that was the case, then it would be easy to get the tea at this time of night.

Third and finally; Sakura painfully surmised that the Mastermind didn’t consider her much of a threat if they were willing to show her all these things. Regardless of her status as the bear’s mole, both of them knew it was an uneasy alliance to say the least, and that, given the chance, Sakura would use anything and everything to turn the tables on the Mastermind. It showed that the Mastermind was completely confident that nothing they showed her would be of any use in discovering their identity.

“What are you waiting for, a written invitation?” Monokuma abruptly shouted, snapping her back to reality as she noticed that the bear had already taken its place opposite her.

As the demented bear somehow picked up the teapot and poured them both a cup of lukewarm tea, Sakura took her seat, staring ahead stoically. Once both cups were filled to the brim, Monokuma leaned back in its chair, saucer and cup in paw.

“So…no one’s dead yet,” the bear politely said, grasping the tea cup with one claw. “So, uh…how the fuck did that happen?”

Opting not to trust the tea or cookies provided, Sakura remained motionless as she answered, “I believe you already heard of Junko’s miraculous rescue—”.

A loud crash ceased her words as she watched Monokuma slam its cup down so hard it shattered.

“Don’t take that kind of tone with me, missy!” the bear seethed, obviously still very sore about that subject. However, it only took a quick inhale for Monokuma to return to its Zen state of calmness, inexplicably pulling a replacement teacup from behind its back. “I wasn’t referring to that. What I meant was; why haven’t you made a move yet?”

Sakura could feel a pit forming in her stomach at those words but knew she had to answer them. “I didn’t realize I was supposed to. After all, you merely instructed me to observe for the time being—”.

“But I distinctly remember instructing you to ‘be a pal and kill someone with 24 hours’, did I not?” the bear interjected, taking a sip of tea. “It seems you forgot about that little request, now didn’t you?”

No matter how hard she tried, this time, Sakura could not stop herself from flinching. As Monokuma had said, she’d completely forgotten about that arrangement after the ordeal she and her classmate had endured yesterday. But now it seemed that Monokuma wanted to cash in on their agreement. The martial artist had naïvely believed that just because Sayaka and Leon had been spared, so too had she.

How could I be so blind?! Why did I think that my classmates’ survival would change anything?!

Her massive hands balled into fists and her entire body shook with suppressed anger. She was suddenly overcome with the desire to rip that demented bear in two, and if she was executed for it, then it would be her penance. However, before she could be given the chance to act upon that rash whim, the bear gently set its teacup down and sighed.

“Anyway, for now, you can just forget about crushing anyone’s head between your thighs or whatever you muscle-ly people do to murder someone.”

All of Sakura’s anger abruptly faded as the bear’s words reverberated in her ears. “Are you certain?” she couldn’t stop from asking, only afterward realizing she sounded entirely too eager.

“Oooh, such a tempting reply…but sadly I am certain.” Monokuma picked up a cookie and shoved the baked good into its mouth, chomping down almost violently. “It’s for the best, at least right now. I guess I expected too much from you. Plus, I can’t have you spoiling the next motive by killing someone before they see what I’ve got in store.”

Quickly catching the bear’s meaning, Sakura immediately asked, “And what exactly do you have planned?”

Sakura watched as Monokuma’s menacing grin widened as the bear answered, “Oh, let’s not talk about me. Let’s talk about you! After all, you promised to tell me all about your little sleepover with Aoi Asahina…or is it just Hina now? You all gave yourselves the stupidest nicknames, I swear.”

Cursing the fact that she had fallen into another of the Mastermind’s traps, and knowing there was no way out of it, Sakura begrudgingly swallowed her pride, and conflicting emotions, as she began to tell Monokuma everything she’d learned thus far.


 

Mondo glanced over at Taka, seeing how red and exhausted the Moral Compass was. And even though the biker knew he must look even more disheveled, due to being fully clothed, he couldn’t stop from feeling confident of his victory.

“Gotta say…you look like you’re at your limit…with a face like that,” he sneered, adjusting the towel atop his pompadour. Little did he know that Taka was feeling equally confident, huffing in mock amusement.

“I could say the same of you…” the Moral Compass fired back, sending a heated glare at his opponent. However, Mondo simply shrugged and reclined back in his seat, desperate to prove that the heat wasn’t affecting him as much as it was the honor student. Seeing this, Taka folded his arms and did his best to pretend the extreme heat wasn’t bothering him either.

Regardless of their manly façades, however, both of them could feel the stinging sensation of sweat leaking into their eyes, and the painful tingling the steam forced upon their bodies. Even so, their pride demanded that they endure this harsh contest, no matter the cost.

Perhaps due to that, Mondo smirked to himself before glancing at Taka out of the corner of his eye to say, “I woulda thought someone like you would know your limits…it’s like you think you actually got guts or something—”

Before he could finish, Taka shot to his feet and marched over to the coals on the other side of the sauna. Grasping the small water pail and dunking it into the water, he seethed, “Don’t say such foolish things!”

With a flick of his wrist, he splattered the water onto the coals, fresh steam billowing up instantaneously.

“It’s far too cold in here!” he was barely able to shout before the temperature spiked, washing over both him and Mondo in a brutal torrent of heat. Both of them abruptly gasped, not realizing the air had just become more difficult to breath, their lungs burning as they inhaled more steam than oxygen.

However, neither of them could admit defeat and, as confidently as he could manage, Taka marched back to his seat beside Mondo and sat, staring forward as if nothing was wrong. Just as he felt a new layer of sweat pour from his pores, the Moral Compass heard a mocking chuckling from beside him.

“Ain’t you the thoughtful one? I was just thinkin’ it was getting too cold—” the biker tried to say but found himself cut off.

“Why don’t you drop the tough guy act and just admit your defeat?” Taka brazenly countered, not even bothering to look at his opponent. “Or does your good-for-nothing personality stop you from seeing how outclassed you are?”

“What the hell did you just say?!” Mondo unsurprisingly exploded, staring dangerously at Taka. “You got a death wish or something?!”

Feeling more confident now that the biker was getting rattled, Taka scoffed, stood from his seat and pointed accusatorily at his classmate.

“You dress sloppy and you’re in a bike gang that can only use violence to solve its problems! It should be me asking if you’re the one who has any real guts! People like you who make excuses from the start are nothing short of losers! I find that inexcusable!”

Taka was certain that he was in for another bout of relentless arguing from his opponent, and was prepared to back up his own accusations. Wiping the sweat from his brow, the Moral Compass turned and glared at Mondo, ready and willing to prove how tough he was.

That’s when something strange happened.

Instead of arguing or even refuting him, Mondo simply stared forward, completely still. Taken back by his sudden lack of passion, Taka wasn’t quite sure what he should be doing. Just as he considered continuing to lecture his classmate, he heard a heavy sigh.

“I’m not in a biker gang. I’m the leader of a biker gang. And I got my own responsibilities and goals as leader.” Mondo spoke clearly but angrily, emphasizing his position as concretely as possible. “It’s my responsibility to lead everyone in the Crazy Diamonds. It has been ever since my brother…died.”

If the air hadn’t been so thick with steam, Taka would have gasped at hearing that. Instead, he simply returned to his seat and remained quiet as the biker continued.

“I never had a good home life…even so, my brother did his best for both of us. He’s the reason the gang came together…and I wanted to be just like him.”

“I see…your brother…” was all Taka could manage to say, nothing more than a simple acknowledgement. His words earned a pitiful chuckle from Mondo, who leaned his head back and slapped his hand to his face.

“And Chuck…he probably thinks I’m a loser for actin’ like this…” the biker said quietly but audible enough for Taka to become confused.

“Uh…Chuck?”

Without warning, Mondo’s head snapped over and he shouted, “He’s a Maltese! And he’s really smart! He used to bring me the paper every day and I’d give him a walk for it!”

For the first time since they’d met, Taka felt a tiny smile form on his lips, accompanied by a light chuckle. “I never expected someone like you to love animals…”

“Fuck you, asshole…” the biker retorted, angrily averting his gaze, embarrassed that he’d shouted so abruptly.

Realizing that his comment sounded far too sarcastic, Taka cleared his throat and reiterated, “He sounds really clever…your dog, I mean.”

Hearing that, Mondo tensed and lowered his gaze down to glare at the floor.

“Yeah, he was,” he answered solemnly, never lifting his gaze. “But…Chuck’s not here anymore either…”

All desire to argue suddenly evaporated as Taka silently listened to his classmate. And somewhere deep inside, a part of him felt guilty for forcing Mondo to bring up such difficult memories. That realization came crashing down on Taka as if he’d been hit by a freight train and he habitually replied, “Oh…sorry—”

His words were cut short when Mondo abruptly shot up from his seat, shouting up at the ceiling “My gang…Crazy Diamonds…they’re all I got left! The survival of the gang is all on me!” Turning his gaze down to glare at Taka, the biker narrowed his eyes and finished, “I’m not an honor student who has all the brains! I gotta work hard at everything I do, unlike a genius like you—!”

“Don’t you dare say that to me! Don’t confuse me for someone like that! I’m not a genius at all!!”

Now it was Mondo’s turn to be stunned into silence, perplexed as Taka raised his voice even higher than his own. Even so, the biker couldn’t stop his curiosity and it didn’t take long for him to ask, “But…if you aren’t a genius…why are you so smart?”

With a heavy sigh, Taka rubbed his temples and explained, “Just because someone gets perfect grades does not mean they’re a genius…”

As expected, Mondo’s reply came in the form of a raised eyebrow and a simple sentence, “…I don’t get what you mean.”

Trying to take a cleansing breath despite the intense heat, Taka resolved to educate his classmate, despite the extreme situation they were in.

“You’ve heard about Former Prime Minister Toranosuke Ishimaru, haven’t you?”

Mondo took a second to think before replying, “Uh…ain’t he the guy who embezzled money or something?”

“…He’s my grandfather.”

The biker’s gaze snapped up and he stared wide-eyed at Taka, watching as the Moral Compass silently lowered his head. Unable to comprehend how he should react to finding this out, Mondo decided it was best just to keep quiet for the moment. But he didn’t have to wait long before Taka quietly began murmuring.

“My Grandfather…he was considered a genius. He never had to work hard for his accomplishment, they all came naturally to him,” Taka paused for a brief moment before “And because of that, he failed to see how others around him despised him. They suspected corruption and eventually, everything he built fell to ruin. Along with the failure of his business, he fell into great debt…which still affects my family to this day.”

Only now lifting his head, Taka angrily stared forward, as if confronting an invisible demon.

“Do you understand? An intelligent but lazy person who doesn’t know how to put effort into their work will always fail! I am not one of those people!” Rising to his feet once more, he clenched his fists and continued, "I’m certain that, with hard work and a clear conscience, I can change this country—!”

Abruptly, a hand slapped down on his shoulder, startling him into silence. Turning to follow the hand back to its owner, Taka was shocked to see a tearful Mondo staring directly into his eyes.

“You…you’ve had a lot of hardships too, haven’t ya?!!” the biker bellowed, hot tears streaming down his cheeks.

Shocked, Taka felt moisture building up in his own eyes as he was barely able to utter, “...Y-You’re crying…for my sake?!”

As the two manly men felt that they had finally come to some form of understanding, a loud and sudden slam snapped both of them back to reality. Their heads snapped over to look at the now opened sauna door, and both were shocked as a red haired figure, clothed only in a towel, brazenly stepped into the steam filled room.


 

“…I’m glad we had this chat! And I think we’ve made great progress with you this evening! I’ll see you again for another therapy session very soon!” Monokuma chided Sakura as it opened the shutter leading back to the second floor.

Sakura was pleased that her conversation with the bear had come to a close. She’d divulged absolutely everything she could remember about her classmates to the demented bear. Everything from personal habits to possible weakness, Sakura even had to tell Monokuma exactly how her sleepover with Hina had gone, in excruciating detail.

All the while, Monokuma acted as a psychiatrist, occasionally asking the martial artist ‘And how does that make you feel?’. It made Sakura’s blood boil and it seemed that the bear enjoyed watching her squirm from all the verbal abuse. Not to mention the guilt that threatened to overtake her for betraying her friends.

“At least it’s over…for now.”

She knew that Monokuma would call upon her again soon and the martial artist questioned how long she’d be able to live with her guilt before she did something foolish…like confessing the truth to her classmates. Forcing such thoughts away for the time being, she marched through the open stairway and heard the heavy clatter of the shutter being forced down.

Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the bear had kept itself on the opposite side and began waddling its way back upstairs before abruptly stopping.

“Oh, and I did forget to mention something…” Monokuma called out, not letting her leave just yet. “Do me a favor and keep an extra special eye focused on Junko Enoshima. She’s been acting a bit out of character and it’s got me a bit worried.”

Although Sakura could completely understand why the bear would want her to keep an eye on the person who thwarted the first execution, something about the way the bear said her classmate’s name sent a chill down her spine. She wanted to ask the reason for such suspicion but opted to simply nod and be done with the bear for now.

“That’s a good little mole,” Monokuma said, as if congratulating a puppy on bringing them the newspaper. “Alrighty then! See you later!!”

Without another word, the bear bounded up the stairs and around the corner out of sight. Sakura couldn’t help but feel relieved but distraught at the same time.

“…Junko Enoshima. What could she be hiding?”


 

“Alright, enough of this shit!” Leon Kuwata shouted at his sweaty classmates, letting the sauna door close behind him before taking another step toward them. “You two are gonna get the hell out of here or I’m gonna drag…the…both…of………Mondo, are you crying?!!”

Suddenly aware of the situation, Mondo shook his head and furiously wiped away the moisture from his face.

“H-Hell no! It’s just sweat, asshole!” he defended, regaining his manly façade. “What the hell are you doing in here anyway? You ruined our moment!”

“Well have your moment outside! It’s time to get out!” Leon fired back, pointing furiously at the door.

It was at this time that Leon sadly remembered that Mondo, in addition to having a short temper, did not like being ordered around. He’d wanted to be stern with them and try to convince them both that their dick measuring contest could be settled tomorrow, but unfortunately, it seemed that he’d done the exact opposite.

“You son of a bitch…You think you can come in here and order us around like you own the place?!” Mondo seethed, turning to face the water pail before dunking it and splashing more water onto the coals. “We’re not even close to finishing this yet!”

Feeling the intensity of the heat for himself, Leon tried to play it cool, pun intended, and folded his arms before saying, “Do you guys know how long you’ve been in here?”

Puzzled by the sudden question, Mondo looked around aimlessly as he tried to come up with an answer. “Uh…about 20 minutes or so?”

“Try three hours!” Leon shouted, instantly regretting raising his voice.

“Really, you sure the heat’s not getting to you or something?” Taka questioned, completely oblivious to his classmate’s concern. In response, Leon face palmed with both hands and groaned.

“No! That’s not the issue right now anyway!” the baseball star insisted, wiping away the newly formed sweat.

Even though he was acting like it wasn’t affecting him, in truth, the extreme heat was quickly wearing down his already exhausted body. Not to mention that, without his shirt to cover it, the bruises on his abdomen were almost completely exposed. Not that Mondo or Taka seemed to notice, though.

Not wanting to stay in the sauna any longer than need be, the baseball player motioned for the door and reasoned, “If you guys stay in here any longer, you’re gonna put your lives at risk!”

At the mention of that, it seemed that reason had begun to return to Taka, because he lowered his gaze a bit before turning to Mondo and saying, “He does have a point. Perhaps we should—”.

“Don’t go soft on me, man!” the biker interrupted, slapping a hand on his shoulder. “We resolved ourselves to finish this, and that’s what we gotta do! As men, we can’t back down from a challenge! Only a lazy person would give up after coming so far!”

A light gasp escaped Taka as he registered Mondo’s words. Staring at the biker’s determined visage, the Moral Compass suddenly felt his passion returning and he hardened his features in resolve.

“Yes…yes, you’re right! Absolutely right! It would be lazy of us to give up now! And neither of us are the lazy type!” Taka affirmed, placing his hand on Mondo’s shoulder as well.

Smiling confidently, Mondo let out a roar of laughter and said, “That’s the spirit! Let’s give it everything we got!”

As one, the two of them erupted into harmoniously overconfident laughter, leaving Leon both stunned and feeling rather confused. How had his plan backfired so much after he’d only been in the sauna for one minute!

“Oh, come on, guys! You can’t be serious! What if you both pass out because of your dick measuring contest?!!” Leon protested, finally giving voice to what their competition truly was.

“Don’t worry,” Taka tried to reassure him, smiling as confidently as the biker. “We’ll be sure to leave before that happens—”.

“And if you don’t?! What happens then?!” the ballplayer insisted.

Groaning loudly, Mondo waved his arm dismissively before turning his back to Leon as he said, “If you want to leave, then leave. We don’t need you here anymore, anyway. Go back to your room or something.”

For reason’s Leon couldn’t quite place, the biker’s dismissive attitude sparked something deep within him and he felt the flames of anger rising up and consuming his reason entirely.

“Listen up, you stupid morons! I’m not gonna be held responsible for the two of you getting heat stroke. So stop being so stupid and get the fuck out of the sauna!”

A long pause accompanied that statement and for a moment, Leon thought he may have finally gotten through to them. However, the instant Mondo turned around and glared at him, he realized he had made a fatal error in judgment.

“And just what the hell is that suppose to mean, huh?” the biker seethed, taking a few steps toward Leon. “And why the hell would you be responsible if it did happen?”

His blood still boiling, Leon couldn’t stop himself from answering, “I don’t know, maybe because of the fact that I was held responsible for what happened to Sayaka, even though it wasn’t my fault!!!”

Taken back by his sudden outburst, Mondo let a look of confusion warp his features. “W-Wha…what the hell is that suppose to mean? What does that have to do with any of this?”

“Because it’s the same bullshit that almost got me executed before!” Leon practically screamed, heaving heavy breaths due to the heat. “Who do you think will get punished if no one drags your stupid asses out of the sauna, huh? Me! That’s who! And I am not going through that again!”

As he finished his tirade, Leon noticed that he was not only short of breath, but that his legs were slightly wobbly. Having not eaten for most of the day, combined with the intense heat of the sauna, his strength was fading fast and he needed to get the morons out ASAP. However, instead of his classmates understanding his plight, an enraged Mondo suddenly grabbed him by the shoulders.

“Is that the only reason you came in here, huh?! Because you’re worried about yourself! Is that it?!”

Flinching due to the biker’s firm grasp, Leon bravely smacked his arms away and retorted, “No! T-That’s not…that wasn’t the only—”.

“Shut the hell up! I don’t wanna hear any more excuses! A pussy like you doesn’t deserve to preside over our battle! Get the fuck outta here before I have to throw you out!” the biker threatened.

Before Leon could retort, Mondo shoved him away and turned his back to him. Feeling desperate, and wanting to at least try and explain himself, the ballplayer reached out and grabbed the sleeve of Mondo’s jacket.

“Just listen! I’m not trying to—”.

“I thought I told you to GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!!

Before Leon knew what was happening, Mondo’s elbow flew back and struck him square in the abdomen. Even worse, he hit the ballplayer in the center of the largest bruise on his torso.

“Khhggh!!”

Leon’s entire body convulsed as the pain from the hit consumed him. He sputtered and desperately tried to pull air into his lungs, but the combination of pain, the force of the strike, and the limited air of the sauna made that impossible. His body lost what little strength it had and he crumpled to the floor.

A moment later, he was surprised to hear the voice of Mondo abruptly calling out.

“Oh shit! Leon! Leon!”

The baseball player felt them grabbing onto him and shaking him, sending another jolt of pain through his already grief stricken body.

“Come on, man! Don’t do this to me! Get the fuck up, you stupid son of a bitch!”

That was the last thing Leon heard before the darkness consumed him.


 

“Okay, just a little bit more…there!”

Chihiro finished typing in the last of the core programming code she’d spent all night working on. Her tired eyes were half-open and bloodshot but still she forced herself to read over the code she’d just finished calculating.

“Everything should be…in order…” she said quietly, a yawn escaping her as she slowly moved her hand over to the ‘enter’ key. “And now…the final…test…”

Clicking her finger down on the button, the now fully charged laptop’s screen abruptly went black. A look of shock overtook Chihiro’s features and her tired mind desperately tried to understand how or why her program had failed.

“Perhaps its…the power out…put…or maybe…the code…has…error…need…to…”

Before she was aware of it, she’d rested her head into her arms and slowly drifted off into peaceful slumber, her brain still trying to confirm why her program hadn’t responded as instructed. However, less than a moment after she lost consciousness, the laptop screen abruptly flashed and a green backdrop appeared.

And then, slowly appearing in the center, the face of a certain Ultimate Programmer suddenly appeared.

“……………Nice to finally meet you, Master.”


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

Warmth…that was all Leon could feel as his consciousness slowly returned. His body almost felt like it was floating, and all around him there was a soothing heat that didn’t threaten to burn him alive. His vision swam as his eyes opened and all he could see was a heavenly haze. It seemed to stretch out forever into the distance, into a void of white on the horizon. A feeling of calmness unlike anything he’d ever experienced before swelled inside him, and the ballplayer felt all his earthly fears and desires dissipate into that void.

“Oh shit…I’m must have bitten the big one…So this is heaven, huh? Kinda surprised I made it here but I’m not complaining.”

Just as he was about to rest his eyes and give in to this magnificent state of bliss, a huge pompadour slid into his vision, his eyes widening as he recognized who it belonged to.

“Yo dude! You alive?!”

As the face of Mondo Owada came crashing into his line of sight, the beautiful white horizon instantly became recognized as the bathhouse ceiling and the heavenly haze was registered as steam from the baths.

“Oh fuck! This isn’t heaven! This is hell! It’s conjured the most pants-shitting place for me to spend my eternity of torment! Complete with a sweaty Mondo to torture—wait, hold on a sec…”

As his thoughts ran rampant, a hand abruptly pushed Mondo aside, making room for Taka to lean over Leon’s body.

“Leon! Are you alright? Quickly, what is the square root of nine to the seventh power?”

A long moment of silence followed and all Leon could do was stare upward as his fears were slowly being confirmed.

“Taka’s asking me math questions…now I know I’m in hell. Hell is pulling out all the stops—okay, hold on, how the fuck would Taka end up down here?”

It was only now that Leon’s memory began to catch up with his mind, recalling the events in the sauna. Well, at least up until the point when he’d been gut punched in his wounded area by Mondo.

A flood of relief hit Leon and he let out a relieved sigh and said, “Okay, so it’s just a metaphorical hell, not the real one. Whew! Dodged a bullet there.”

Taka and Mondo exchanged a confused look but he couldn’t care less. His body felt incredibly heavy and he wanted nothing more than to just remain on the floor. However, that wasn’t meant to be.

“Dude, if you’re awake, then you should get off the floor. It’s kinda hard to tell if I really killed you or not.”

Instantly, Leon felt a twinge of anger and he decided to act upon it. “Oh, because that’s all that matters. Whose only worried about themselves now?”

Mondo visibly flinched at that accusation, stunned for a moment as he processed what Leon had said. And it didn’t take long for his eyes to narrow and his hands to ball into fists.

“What did you say?! You got a death wish, you son of a bitch!”

Somehow feeling confident enough to get it off his chest, Leon continued to lay flat on the floor as he glared up at Mondo.

“Hmph, it’s different when it’s your ass on the line, isn’t it?! Well how the hell do you think I felt when you all abandoned me?!” He paused and sent a small glare Taka’s way before continuing. “I see how you all look at me. Like I’m some deranged murderer that could snap at any moment!”

Taka opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out, knowing that, on some level, even he had done that at one point. At the same time, Mondo began to lose his ferocity, but still didn’t know what else to feel besides anger.

“It…it ain’t like that! I don’t see you that way anymore—!” he tried to explain.

“Yeah, anymore! Doesn’t change the fact that you don’t trust me and want me locked up for a mistake that makes me want to beat the shit out of myself!” Leon interrupted, not accepting Mondo’s excuse. “But as long as it’s not you then it’s fine, isn’t it?! Face it! If it had been you tied up with that pitching machine pointed at you, you’d be as desperate and pathetic as I was!”

Each word cut deeper and deeper into Mondo, and whether or not he agreed with Leon, it didn’t stop how furious those accusations made him. Gritting his teeth and practically seeing red, the biker let out a furious shout and reared his fist back, prepared to clock the ballplayer in the face.

“You sonofa bitch!! You don’t know anything about me!!”

Angrily scoffing, Leon’s gaze practically dared him to let his fist fly. “I know that you can’t solve any of your problems without hitting them! Keep that up and you’ll end up just like me!”

“Be quiet!! Both of you!!”

A flash shot in front of Mondo, a hand grasping his wrist to keep his arm from moving. The biker’s gaze shot down and both he and Leon were startled to see that Taka had placed himself between them. Mondo was especially surprised that the Moral Compass actually had enough strength to hold him back, the iron grip on his wrist keeping his fist in place.

A brief silence engulfed them all before Taka slowly released his grip on Mondo. Immediately afterward, he took a deep breath and said, “Now isn’t the time for violence.”

As if a switch had been flipped, Leon and Mondo felt a chill as they realized how reckless they both had been acting. As they both considered the absurdity of their actions, the Ultimate Moral Compass tightened the towel around his waist and cleared his throat before glancing at Mondo.

“Mondo, I understand why you’re upset. You feel guilty over what we both did…voting for Leon during the trial. And it’s hard to deal with…trust me, I understand that all too well…” He paused and momentarily averted his gaze before snapping back up, a fire burning in his eyes. “But Leon is right! We did abandon him! Even if we don’t want to admit it, we still did. And he has every right to be angry!”

The biker stood there, fists still clenched, holding in a retort. It was obvious that he knew Taka was right but he still couldn’t admit it. So, he opted to remain silent instead. During that time, Taka turned and kneeled down to speak with Leon.

“I know that it’s too late but…I owe you an apology!” He abruptly bowed his head. “During the trial, I lost my composure and blamed you for what happened to Sayaka! And for that, I am truly sorry!”

Shocked at the sudden apology, Leon was at a loss for a few moments. “Uh…it’s, uh, it’s cool, dude—”.

“It most certainly is not cool…dude!” Taka repealed, snapping his head up. “And even though I tried to make up for my actions by voting to allow you to stay a part of the group, I feel that I still deserve punishment! If you’d like, you can punch me! Right in the face!”

“What, why?! Why would I do that?!” the ballplayer asked, completely perplexed.

“To punish me for not being able to help you! Now, go ahead! I’m prepared!”

Before he could protest more, a ferocious shout startled him. “Me too!! I deserve it too!” Mondo abruptly shouted, kneeling next to Taka. “Clock me right in the nose if you want! Do it!!”

Leon’s jaw dropped at the stupidity of their suggestion, his face warped with confusion. And even as appealing as that was, he didn’t really feel that it would help. Plus, he was exhausted and didn’t think he’d be able to proper punch them anyway.

“Dude, I don’t want to punch either of you in the face!” he informed them, trying to find a way out of their suggestion.

Taka and Mondo exchanged a confused look before the biker looked back at Leon and asked, “Do you want to punch us somewhere else?”

“No! Dammit, you can’t solve all your problems by punching them!” Leon protested as he face-palmed.

“You sure about that?” Mondo asked, not completely registering the notion. “I mean, if you punch me, we should be even, right?”

A heavy sigh escaped Leon and his gaze fell to the floor. “Mondo, if you keep acting like that, you might accidently hurt someone…just like I did.”

For a brief moment, all of them fell silent. The reality of what had happened to all of them, especially Leon, was far too fresh for them not to worry. And, almost against his will, Mondo lifted his hand to his face and balled it into a fist before letting it fall melancholically to his side.

“Yeah…I know. It’s the second time someone’s had to tell me that…” he said quietly, recalling Kyoko’s warning to him on their first day in this hell-hole.

“Well then, what do you want?” Taka asked, trying to bring them out of the funk they’d found themselves in.

“I don’t know, man…” Again, Leon felt nothing but confusion at being put on the spot and he threw up his arms. It was then that, a single thought invaded his mind. “I…uh…I guess I kinda want to know why Mondo voted to have me locked up?”

Now he felt like the stupid one. Sure, he wanted to know the answer to that question but he didn’t want to ask it in a way that made him look so ridiculous.

“Well…uh…”

Leon’s eyes widened and he looked up to see Mondo nervously scratching his head, as if searching for the best way to answer. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the biker to sigh and answer.

“Well, you know, when you do bad shit you get locked up, right? I mean, that’s what happened to me when I flipped off that cop and ended up in juvie!”

“…You got put in juvie for flipping off a cop?” Leon couldn’t help but question.

“Well, it was more about stealing his bike, but yeah!”

“Mondo! Why would you do such a thing?!” Taka protested, his hall monitor senses tingling.

“What? Police bikes are supposed to be a lot fuckin’ faster than a normal bike. I wanted to test and see if it was true! It was a…what’s it called…like a pursuit of knowing things!”

“The Pursuit of Knowledge does not constitute theft!”

In the middle of their argument, both Taka and Mondo were shocked to hear a roar of laughter from Leon, as he continued to lie prone on the bathhouse floor.

“Dude! That’s fucking awesome!” he shouted between laughter spurts. “That’s the most badass thing you’ve ever said, man!”

Slowly, Mondo let the laughter infect him and he chuckled as he replied, “You wanna talk about badass? Just look at this bastard, right here!” He gestured toward a surprised Taka. “Jumping between us and holdin’ me back like it’s no big deal! Seriously, dude, that takes balls! Like brass balls, man!”

Taken aback by the sudden, and somewhat vulgar compliment, it took Taka a moment to realize he was being praised. As soon as he did, however, he huffed confidently and replied, “Well of course I have them! They were forged in the line of duty as Hall Monitor, long before I became the Ultimate Moral Compass! In fact, I’ve been stopping hallway fights since I was in preschool!”

A mischievous grin spread over Mondo’s lips as he retorted, “Ya know, that sounds like a challenge! What do you two say to a little contest to determine the most manly of men?”

Immediately, Leon ceased his laughter and his eyes widened in horror. “Please god, no…”

“What kind of contest do you purpose?” Taka instantly inquired, his competitive spirit returning, much to Leon’s continued torment.

Pounding his fist into his palm, Mondo continued to smirk as he answered, “We’re gonna have a ‘Guys Night!’ Stayin’ up all night and doin’ manly crap like hangin’ sheet rock or something!”

At this point, Leon had had enough. He was happy that they had, somewhat reconciled about what had happened but it was all getting to be too much for him, at least for tonight.

“Dude…I just wanna go back to my room and—”.

“Awesome! We’ll have our contest in your room then!” Mondo immediately misread.

“What?! No!!”

“Hell yeah!” Mondo fervently said, not listening to Leon’s protests in the slightest. Standing up and offering a hand to Taka, he continued, “This time, we’ll see who’s the manliest among all three of us! Ain’t that right, Bro?!”

The moment the word ‘Bro’ reached his ears, Taka felt something he never imagined he’d feel…friendship. True and pure friendship. Someone genuinely wanted to be his friend and was asking him to hang out, without wanting to copy his notes or ask about school regulations. A hint of moisture built up in his eyes but he blinked it away as slapped his hand into Mondo’s allowing the taller student to pull him up.

“Right…Bro! Let’s get Leon up and have ourselves a…’Guy’s Night’!”

“That’s what I wanted to hear!” Mondo replied, pleased to have made a new friend. “But don’t expect me to go easy on ya!”

“Ha! As if you stand a chance against me. But I suppose I will be gracious, even in victory!” Taka fired back, realizing how much he enjoyed friendly banter.

As much as he wanted to protest, Leon found himself simply sighing at the “manly” friendship that had just blossomed between two of the most idiotic students in the whole bunch.

“Ah, what the hell? Alright, let’s get this over with,” Leon called out to them, making them turn and remember that he was still there.

“Are you sure you’re alright? You never answered my mathematical question,” Taka insisted, his unique type of worry drawing a sigh out of the ballplayer.

“Dude, I sleep through math every day. I didn’t even know numbers could be powered up.”

“Well, once you study the proper equations, nothing will—”.

“Bro, this ain’t the time for quizzes. Let’s just get the hell outta here. We’re not gonna find out who’s the manliest among us in here!” Mondo thankfully interjected, hoisting Leon up and putting his arm over his own shoulder to help carry the ballplayer.

“Ah, you’re right, Bro! Let’s head for Leon’s room! We can continue our mathematical pursuits there! That will surely be the best way to determine who among us is the manliest of men! You two are probably unprepared for such a contest but worry not! I will be gracious enough to provide the learning materials for our ‘Guys Night’ festivities! I will meet you there after I retrieve the books from my room!”

“Huh? Wait, what?! No! I meant like tellin’ stories about our conquests of chicks an’ stuff—!” the biker tried to protest but had already Taka spun around and hurried into changing room, leaving Leon and Mondo with a look of genuine horror on their faces.

“What have you done?!” Leon gasped, his gaze slowly shifting over to glare at Mondo.

“…Don’t worry, I’ve got an idea about how to fix this,” the biker reassured him, slowly moving them toward the changing room. “We’re gonna head for the storeroom and see if they have any beer….”

“It’s a school, man! There’s no way there’ll be any beer here!”

“…Fuck.”

“I regret telling you not to solve all your problems by punching them…” Leon muttered under his breath as the long night seemed to only be just beginning.


 

*Ding—Dong—Ding—Dong*

“Goooood Morning, everyone! It is now 7AM and nighttime is officially…”

As the morning announcement rang through the halls, Sayaka’s door slid open and the pop idol poked her head out slightly. Glancing down the hall without seeing anyone, she quietly pushed her door open and stepped out, sliding her door closed silently. Using the wall for balance, she headed directly for the cafeteria.

“It’s still early. I should be able to get there first,” she whispered to herself as she inched her way along.

Her strength was coming back, albeit slowly, and after crying herself to sleep last night, she’d slept until just before 6AM. Getting out of bed had been difficult, particularly with her right arm still in the sling, but somehow she’d managed to get up and was already half-way to her destination.

“I’ll just grab an apple or something. That should be enough to get Leon off my back…at least until this evening.”

She’d come to the conclusion that, if she showed she could provide for herself, then she could convince Leon not to deliver her food anymore. It was humiliating enough to have to be taken care of, but it was almost unbearable that her ‘victim’ had to be the one to do it. She knew that neither of them wanted this but considering their situation, there was nothing they could do…or at least she’d thought that until coming up with this brilliant plan.

“I can make it…it’s not that far…” she reassured herself, finding herself already short of breath.

As she reached the open area just before the cafeteria, she was forced to push herself off the wall and travel the short distance to the double doors of her destination. However, the second she was forced to stand on her own, without any support, her legs buckled. Her good hand slapped into the floor to try and break her fall, however, she lacked the strength to hold herself up and her hand slipped almost instantly.

Panic surged through her as she fell and she twisted her body so that she wouldn’t land on her broken wrist. Instead, she let her face smack into the hard linoleum, an audible grunt following. Tears stung her eyes as her whole body suddenly ached, particularly the bandaged gash on her stomach. Taking in a few pained breathes through grit teeth, she repositioned her good arm and tried to push herself up. But, once again, she lost all strength and her hand slipped, making her face-plant a second time.

She winced as another jolt of pain racked her body, her breathing still ragged and desperate. Her entire body felt like it was being pressed into the floor, and even moving her fingers seemed like a monumental task.

“Maybe…this…wasn’t such…a…good…” she panted, realizing how disastrous of a situation she’d put herself in. She was trapped, unable to move forward but also unable to go back. “Dam…mit…why…did…this…happen?…I…never…wanted…”

Her vision blurred and she felt completely and utterly helpless. Mentally and physically, she was beyond exhausted. She had never felt so lost in all of her life. Until now, she had always known what path to follow, her destiny clear to her. But now, it was all gone. Her hope…her dreams…her old life was nothing more than a shadow that continued to taunt her. She could never go back to being the Ultimate Pop Idol…not after what she’d done. And that thought scared her more than she had ever realized.

“What’s…the…point…in…surviv—?”

“Sayaka! What happened?!”

The pop idol’s eyes widened as a familiar voice startled her. Painstakingly glancing over her shoulder, she found a pair of slender arms gently wrapping themselves around her shoulders, cautiously pulling her up to a seated position. Before she knew what was happening, Sayaka found herself coming face to face with her savior.


 

“Am I in the right place at the right time or wrong place all the time…dammit.”

Mukuro mentally cursed as she was once again forced to put her identity at risk by helping one of her classmates. But there wasn’t really any other choice. Sayaka was obviously in pain and worse, she was vulnerable to attack. If she hadn’t decided to start getting up early and making rounds throughout the school, in case her sister decided to change things or just for this sort of occasion, who knows what could have befallen her classmate.

After getting the idol up and comfortably resting against the wall, Mukuro’s eyes drifted down to Sayaka’s midsection. “Lift your shirt,” she demanded, already reaching for the edges.

“H-Huh…?” Sayaka barely mumbled before the soldier pulled up the material.

Mukuro let out along held sigh as she saw that, miraculously, Sayaka’s wound hadn’t reopened. The bandages were twisted and a little stained from being worn all night, but there was no evidence of fresh blood anywhere.

“We’ll have to change these,” she informed her classmate, pulling her shirt back down. “You’re damn lucky the wound didn’t reopen.”

“…Y-Yeah…”

A deep scowl marred Mukuro’s features as Sayaka averted her gaze, most likely in shame. And while the soldier had a vague idea of why the pop idol was out here on her own, it didn’t stunt her frustration.

“So, you want to tell me what the hell were you thinking?!” she questioned, trying to seem as bitchy as her usual persona had to be. “You can barely stand, let alone walk on your own! What are you doing out here and where the hell is Leon?”

“…Who cares…”

Mukuro’s eyes narrowed at the challenging tone Sayaka was using, making her change her tone as well. “Excuse me?” she seethed, not even trying to hide her frustrations anymore.

“I said…” snapping her head up, Sayaka glared at the soldier. “…who cares?! Why does it matter where Leon is?! Why does it matter where I am?! What does any of it matter?!”

A hint of confusion sparked in Mukuro’s eyes as she questioned, “Any of what matter?”

Sucking in short ragged breathes, the pop idol snarled, “This. Being in this horrible place and being forced to kill each other to survive! What’s the point in trying to deny the inevitable?!”

“The inevitable?” the soldier pushed her further, knowing exactly where she was taking this but also knowing that it needed to be said.

Finally losing her composure, tears burst from Sayaka’s eyes as she shouted, “We’re all going to die here! The mastermind will never let us go! And even if we do somehow make it out…there’s nothing left for me out there!” Her head hung, droplets of moisture falling and soaking her shirt. “I have nothing! What…what I am suppose to do…?! What am I supposed to do now—?!”

Without hesitation, Mukuro lifted her hand and slapped Sayaka across the face. A short and abrupt shriek erupted from the pop idol’s mouth as the shock of the hit registered. Not giving her time to recover, the soldier placed both hands on Sayaka’s cheeks and pulled her face back to stare directly into her tearful eyes.

“Listen up! You think you’re the only one that’s scared? Terrified that we may be killed any day now?” She saw that Sayaka’s lips were trembling, like she was trying to answer, so the soldier immediately continued, “Well you’re not! We all are! I’m struggling to keep it together just as much as you are! Or have you forgotten that I have a fucking hole in my hand!”

She pulled her hands from Sayaka’s cheek and untied the bandage on her right palm before thrusting it in the idol’s face. The wound had finally begun to heal but was still bloody and ugly. The sight of it, made Sayaka flinch and pull away, her breathing speeding up in the process. Seeing that her display was having the desired effect, Mukuro quickly rewrapped her wounded appendage.

As she did, she quietly spoke, “My modeling career is over. No one’s going to even look at me with this disgusting scar. The business is that cruel.” She knew her logic wasn’t entirely accurate but with Sayaka’s frazzled state, she was certain her classmate would believe her. “Even so, I’m…we are both still alive. And…isn’t that the most important thing?”

As she finished reapplying her bandage, she glanced up to see Sayaka, somewhat coming out of her stupor, lower her gaze.

“It’s different for you…” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. “You didn’t try to kill anyone—”.

“I got damn close though…”

Sayaka’s eyes widened and her head shot up, shock overtaking her features. “W-What…?”

A depressing chuckling sounded from Mukuro’s lips as she answered, “I was close to the breaking point myself…in fact, I even began planning out what I was going to do. That is…until we found you in Makoto’s bathroom…”

The soldier watched as Sayaka shuddered, the memory of that time obviously plaguing her. Not wanting to focus on that, Mukuro continued, “When I heard that you’d apparently been…killed, I was horrified. Not because you were thought to be dead but…because I realized that I had been planning to do something similar. And when that bear explained what happens to anyone who commits murder…I lost all hope…and I attacked him. And we both know how that turned out…”

For a few moment’s they both sat there, unable to say a single word. The repercussions of their actions haunted them, and even though Mukuro wasn’t being entirely honest, the disgust she had toward herself was certainly real.

“But then…Makoto saved me,” she finally decided to say, interrupting the silence. “I don’t know how or why but he did. He gave me a reason to keep surviving…and that’s the reason I was able to save you.”

She paused for a moment, letting those words encourage her before narrowing her gaze at Sayaka. “So don’t say that we don’t have a chance to survive! If you and I can be saved from certain death, then why can’t we find a way to beat that bastard bear and get the hell out of here?!”

The instant those words were spoken, Sayaka’s breath hitched and it was obvious that she was caught in a surge of emotion and confusion. And though Mukuro could tell that she didn’t necessarily want to hear these things, she also knew that Sayaka desperately needed someone to say those exact words to her. Even so, the utter confusion in the pop idol’s eyes wasn’t dissipating in the least.

“B-But…what can I do?” she asked, desperately seeking the answer. “I have no idea what I should be doing now!”

“Ha…join the club,” Mukuro replied, much to her classmate’s surprise. “Do you think any of us know what we should be doing now? We’ve got no clue what we should be doing! You, me, Leon, Makoto…all of us are completely in the dark on what we should be doing.”

Hearing that, Sayaka’s head hung and the soldier realized that might not have been the best motivator. However, she quickly recovered by saying, “That’s why we have to do whatever we can! Even if we don’t know what that is yet, we just have to wait and see what we can do!”

At this, Sayaka looked up at her and, for the first time throughout this entire conversation, there was the tiniest hint of hope in her eyes. Finally feeling that they were on the right track, Mukuro gave her a confident smile and continued, “But the most important thing is that we do it together. If we stick together and help each other out, then we can beat the Mastermind and find a way out!”

“T-Together…?” Sayaka whispered, as if the word was foreign to her.

“Yeah! Whether that means exploring the school to find a way out or helping a classmate off the floor,” Mukuro said with a wink. “And speaking of helping each other out, I’m freaking starving! What’s say we get you up and go get some breakfast, huh?”

Mukuro had almost completely gone back to her “Junko” persona by this point, which actually helped her as much as it did Sayaka. Normally, she would never be so hopeful and chipper but because she’d practiced being her sister’s double for so long, it was much easier. Not to mention that, whether she admitted to it or not, some of Makoto’s personality was certainly rubbing off on her.

Looking to Sayaka for confirmation, she smiled a bit more when Sayaka slowly nodded.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” Mukuro said, as she moved to Sayaka’s side, slung the idol’s good arm over her shoulder and helped her stand. Sayaka’s legs were wobbly but with someone to lean on, she was able to carefully begin to take steps.

Just as they were about to get to the double doors of the cafeteria, a gentle whisper reached her ears.

“Thank you…Junko.”

Involuntarily, Mukuro flinched at those words. It was painful for her to be called by her sister’s name. Knowing the evils that her sister had done…as well as being a part of most of them, it felt wrong for her to be thanked. Not to mention that being called by her sister’s name was a great source of shame in and of itself.

However, she forced those feeling aside and replied, “No prob. Now let’s go get some—”.

A loud bang, followed by a startled shout suddenly echoed from just beyond the cafeteria door, interrupting Mukuro and instantly putting her into defensive mode. She considered retreating and getting the others but knew it would be difficult with having to support Sayaka. Then again, she couldn’t just break down the door either…

“Th-That voice?! Was that Leon?!” Sayaka abruptly inquired, a hint of fear in her voice. “It came from the cafeteria! He could be in trouble!”

Fear crept into Mukuro’s mind as she registered Sayaka’s words. If she didn’t react quickly…they could have another murder on their hands. Even if it meant risking revealing who she really was, in the end, there was no other choice.

“Sayaka, hold onto me!”

The pop idol did as instructed without hesitation. All apprehension left Mukuro and she lifted her leg, smashing it into the double doors.


 

The doors to the cafeteria burst open and in strode Junko, with Sayaka practically attached to her hip.

“Alright! Just what the hell’s…going…on?” Junko’s words faded as she caught sight of who was present.

Across the room, Mondo and Taka were staring at the girls in shock, their arms locked in what appeared to be an arm-wrestling match. Sitting nearby, looking utterly exhausted and rubbing his own arm, was Leon.

For a moment, none of them said anything, the awkwardness of the situation sinking into all of them. However, no awkward silence was enough to keep Mondo silent for very long.

“It’s arm-wrestling…what’s it look like?! Come on, Bro! Let’s finish this!”

“Right!” Taka fervently replied.

Instantly, the two went back to their match, grunting and groaning as they each tried to dominate the other. Still standing in the doorway, Junko’s jaw had dropped and she could only stare at the men continued to fight for dominance. However, didn’t have to wait long before—

“Gotcha!!” Mondo shouted as he slammed Taka’s fist into the table. Pulling their arms back, the biker smirked and said, “Damn that was close! You almost had me, Bro!!”

“Next time I won’t be beaten so easily, Bro! Remember that!” Taka instantly replied, smirking just as hard at his new friend.

Both of them let out boisterous laugh before slapping each other on the shoulder. Meanwhile, Junko and Sayaka were beyond confused but only the Fashionista seemed able to voice it.

“Hey! What the hell is going on here?! And why the hell are you in here so early?!” she demanded, making the two men turn toward her with raised eyebrows.

“We were having a contest to see who was the manliest among us!” Taka answered, still patting Mondo on the shoulder. “As for why we are here, that should be obvious! We came here just before the morning announcement was sounded in preparation for the morning meeting! While we waited, Bro suggested that we have a test of strength—”.

“Okay, yeah, I get all that! But what the hell was that banging and shouting before?!” Junko interrupted, helping Sayaka over to a table during his explanation.

“Oh, that was just Leon,” Mondo explained, laughing all the while.

“Oh…” Junko replied quickly, a look of sympathy in her eyes as she gave Leon a quick glance. “Well, I guess…that explains it then…” she finished before helping Sayaka to a nearby seat and sitting next to her, a deep sigh immediately following.

“Yeah, he lost big time and cried like a girl when I slammed his arm into the table!” the biker continued, slapping the baseball star on the back.

“Can I go back to my room now?!” an absolutely exhausted Leon shouted, his voice slightly muffled by the fact that his face was practically embedded in the table. Lifting his head from the table, he caught a glance at Sayaka and his eyes widen in terror. “Oh God…she’s come for me!”

Seeing the baseball star’s fearful reaction, Junko narrowed her gaze at the two other boys and asked, “What did you do to him?”

Mondo and Taka looked between each other for a moment before shrugging their shoulders in confusion before the biker replied, “Nothing. We didn’t do nothing.”

Reaching a hand out toward Sayaka, the baseball player begged, “Please…be my mercy angel…”

Hearing this, Junko folded her arms and glared at the other boys again. “This is not ‘nothing’! He’s clearly losing it! Now, what did you two do to him?!”

Sighing at being scolded by a girl, Mondo answered, “Like I said, we didn’t do anything! We were just doing manly stuff!”

Raising an eyebrow, the Fashionista skeptically asked, “What kind of ‘manly stuff’?”

Simultaneously, Taka and Mondo answered:

“Pythagorean Theorem.”

“Hanging sheet rock.”

Her jaw dropping, Junko was forced to come to the only conclusion that made sense, “You guys made him study Pythagorean Theorem while forcing him to hang sheet rock?!”

“What? No, we were just kidding! We just stayed up all night hanging out and stuff!” Mondo defended, kinda embarrassed to be associated with anything school related.

“Yes, we bonded over our manly tendencies!” Taka tried to reassure her, to no avail.

However, that answer didn’t have the desired effect either, as Junko rose from her seat, her eyes narrowing dangerously. “You guys forced him to stay up all night?! Are you crazy?! He can’t handle that!”

“Sure he can! I mean, he seems to be doing alright so far…” Taka defended, before being cut off by a shouting Junko.

“He just asked Sayaka to be his mercy angel! What part of that is ‘alright’ to you?!”

For the first time since their manly competition had begun, Mondo and Taka began to realize that they may, in fact, have done something bad to their newfound bro. Glancing over, they saw Leon’s disheveled appearance and grimaced.

Taking the opportunity, Junko continued, “Most people sleep at night! Why did you think it was a good idea to force him to stay up with you?!”

Briefly looking to over to his new bro, Mondo shrugged his shoulders and answered, “He plays baseball and stuff, right? We figured he’d be used to being up all night—”.

“Are you freaking kidding me?!” A frantic Fashionista shouted, face-palming at the same time. “He’s an athlete! They have to rest and recover so they can play again the next day! I know that bikers are out all night and honor students study until dawn but athletes and normal people need sleep!”

The full spectrum of what they’d done to their new bro came crashing down on them and both Taka and Mondo held a guilty visage…for about ten seconds. Stepping forward, Taka decided it was best that he resolve the situation.

“Alright, so we may have gone overboard but I assure you, we never meant to inconvenience him,” the moral compass assured her, wanting to settle her down.

“Does that mean I can go back to my room now?” Leon practically begged, not sure what was worse at the moment, Sayaka’s presence or the manly Bros.

“Leon, you may rest after the morning meeting! Bro and I are also tired but you don’t hear us complaining, now do you?” Taka tried to encourage him, failing miserably.

A light whimpering came from the baseball player but otherwise, he said nothing as they all awaited the arrival of their classmates. At the same time, Junko apparently gave up as well, letting her head rest on the table as she groaned audibly. All the while, no one noticed that Sayaka was staring directly at Leon, guilt and worry clouding her eyes.


 

Mondo and Taka continued to be obnoxious and friendly with each other even as the rest of their classmates arrived.

First to arrive were Hina and Sakura, who were both relieved and terrified to see how close the Bro’s had become overnight. When Byakuya arrived, he gave them an annoyed glance but said nothing as he took a seat near the back of the room. Toko followed immediately after Byakuya, almost as if she’d been tailing him. Hifumi and Hiro arrive at the same time, with each of them offering very different and insane reasons for those two having become friends. After that, Celeste made her way inside, giving her usual smile until she spotted the two bros…which changed into a look of confusion for half a second before she seemed to write them off and took a seat. Kyoko was the next to arrive but all she did was quietly take a seat, as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

Finally, Makoto rushed into the cafeteria, a bit sweaty from running all that way. The instant he saw how buddy-buddy the two previously irreconcilable classmates were being, his eyes widened and he couldn’t stop himself from asking: “What happen while I was unconscious yesterday?!”

“It’s a very very long story…” the tired voice of Leon answered him, prompting Makoto to be startled by his disheveled appearance.

“Leon! What happened to you?!” Makoto asked, obviously concerned.

“Yeah, you look like you were up all night!” Hina chimed in, having waited for the right opportunity to inquire.

“He was! And it was awesome!” Mondo announced to everyone!

“Yes, he is our ‘Bro’, now!” Taka declared before turning to the semi-conscious ballplayer. “Isn’t that right, Leon!”

“Hate you…hate you both so much…” the ballplayer quietly replied. “I just want to get the morning meeting over with so I can go to sleep!”

“I’m sorry Leon, but we can’t start the meeting yet!” Taka announced, looking at his watch before frowning. “Chihiro isn’t here yet…and it’s already half-past 7.”

“That’s weird,” Hifumi commented, looking around the room. “Miss Fujisaki is normally one of the earliest to arrive. What could be keeping her?”

In that moment, a familiar sense of dread overcame all of them. Even Leon found himself sobering up as the situation dawned on him. After all, it was the same terror they had all felt the morning that Sayaka had failed to appear for the morning meeting. Only this time, she was there to experience the fear and horror for herself.

And that’s what prompted her to say, “S-She’s probably just…running late…”

Unfortunately, her shaky voice didn’t inspire any such confidence and immediately after speaking, Junko stood up and headed for the door.

“I’ll go and—”.

“Wait a moment…” the Fashionista was surprised to hear Kyoko was the one to stop her but obeyed her commanded nonetheless. “I’ll go with you. The rest of you should stay here until we get back. If she really is just late, there’s no need to cause a panic.”

“R-Right…” Makoto answered for everyone. “We’ll wait here for you.”

With a nod, Kyoko joined Junko by the door before the two of them ran off down the hallway.

The rest of the students sat in complete silence, as if afraid that saying anything would somehow make the situation worse. Even Makoto, who seemed like he really wanted to cheer everyone up, remain silent while the pair were gone.

Just as the silence was becoming deafening, Celeste cleared her throat and said, “Well, I am absolutely parched. Hifumi, go and make us some tea while we wait.”

“Huh, what?” the fanfic creator said in shock, unknowingly mirroring many of his fellow students.

Before he had a chance to actually complain, Celeste folded her hands together and finished, “Milk Tea, if you please.”

“Wh-Why me?” Hifumi finally questioned.

“Your figure reminds me of the owner of a café I once frequented,” was her answer, and it didn’t really seem like a proper response, given the situation. Nevertheless, she showed no signs of relenting as she smiled ‘pleasantly’ and quipped, “Quickly please, my throat is drying out.”

Everyone was quite shocked that she’d made such a request during such a dreadful time but what was more surprising was that Hifumi replied, “Oh…okay.”

His lack of resistance startled most of them but no one said anything as he departed for the kitchen. Seeing this as a way to possible break the tension, Makoto carefully stood up.

“Why don’t we all get something to eat while we wait?” he offered kindly, trying to ease the situation.

However, before anyone could take him up on the offer, Junko and Kyoko came in the door. And judging by the expressions on their faces, the news wasn’t favorable.

“Was she there?” Makoto asked regardless, still trying to be hopeful.

“No, she didn’t appear to be,” Kyoko answered, folding her arms.

“A-Are you sure? Maybe she’s just sleeping?” Hina joined in, also trying not to assume the worst.

To this Junko sighed and raised her arms in defeat. “I doubt it, not with my ringing her doorbell non-stop for the last few minutes.”

“And there was no evidence of her room being broken into,” Kyoko added, her demeanor calm as usual.

“Then she may have just gone to the bathhouse or something…” Hiro suggested. “Yeah, if her door was locked, I’m sure she’d probably there!”

“But if that were the case, why would she go so early in the morning? And without informing any of us?” Sakura spoke up, offering her opinion.

“Not to mention that she is normally one of the first of us to arrive for the morning meeting,” Celeste concurred before sending a surreptitious glance at the kitchen door.

“If you put it like that…then—!” Taka was about to proclaim something but was rudely interrupted.

“In other words…the game is afoot once again.” Everyone turned and glared as Byakuya said those words, a confident grin on his face. Taking note of everyone’s gaze only seemed to intensify his attitude as he continued, “If you all can’t realize the situation we’re in, then I have no need for you.”

“You don’t have to say it like that, you prick!” Mondo abruptly shouted, waving his fist at the affluent progeny.

“For now, why don’t we split into groups of two or three and search both floors?” Kyoko suggested, trying to ease the hostility between her classmates.

“I can agree with that,” Byakuya chimed in. “That way, we can be assured that the killer won’t be able to disrupt the crime scene.”

Everyone was growing more and more frustrated with Byakuya’s accusations but just before it seemed that Mondo was going to burst into a rage and deck him, a calm voice spoke up.

“That’s fine. But we should hurry,” Kyoko insisted, looking around at everyone. “Let’s decide who to pair up with.”

“Pardon me, but I believe we should have someone remain here, just in case Chihiro happens to return. I volunteer myself and Hifumi for this task,” Celeste offered, smiling daintily all the while. “Besides, I have yet to receive my morning tea and I feel that I will be rather useless until that time.”

A collective groan sounded but no one seemed to refute the idea. At least until Leon stood up and shouted, “Hey! What about Sayaka?! You can’t expect her to roam around the school with the way she is!”

At once, everyone looked at Sayaka, who seemed to still be rather shaken up by all the proceeding, hanging her head with her bangs obscuring her eyes.

“Oh, my apologies,” Celeste replied quickly. “I never meant to alienate her. If she wishes to remain here with us, then I am fine with that. I doubt she’s in any condition to traverse the school anyway—”.

“Let me help…” Everyone was startled when Sayaka suddenly interrupted. “I can help look for Chihiro…so please…let me help.”

Lifting her gaze, Sayaka saw that most of her classmates were apprehensive at least, and suspicious at worst. Nevertheless, she decided to prove to them she could handle it by pushing herself up onto her feet, using the table for balance.

As she stood though, Makoto took a careful step forward and said, “A-Are you sure?! I mean, you don’t have to. You can rest if—”.

“No…I’m going to help look,” she said, sending him the harshest glare that any of them had ever seen.

Rather than protest like he usually would have, Makoto felt his confidence slipping, mainly because of the argument they’d had last night. That’s why he was incredibly relieved when Junko suddenly marched over to Sayaka and took her gently by the arm.

“Tell ya what, you and I have to change our bandages anyway, so why don’t we head for the nurse’s office? We can look for Chihiro along the way, sound good?” the Fashionista proposed, holding up her bandaged appendage for emphasis.

“…Alright,” Sayaka finally relented, letting Junko help her toward the door.

As the two of them departed, Taka finally regained his position at the one in charge by shouting, “Very well then! Let’s split up into even groups and search the school for Chihiro!


 

“This whole thing is grating on my nerves…why should I care if the little programmer is missing? If someone else finds her before I do, then it works out the same…”

Celeste sat at her table, alone in the cafeteria, still waiting for Hifumi to deliver her tea. The rest of her fellow students had already left and were probably searching everywhere for the Ultimate Programmer.

After Junko had left with Sayaka, it was decided that Hina and Sakura would investigate the pool on the second floor. Byakuya insisted on going to check the library and Toko eagerly shouted she’d accompany him, much to the affluent progeny’s disgust. Kyoko decided to search the gym, with Makoto tagging along to help if need be. Leon and Hiro were elected to search the empty classrooms on both floor and finally, Taka volunteered himself and Mondo to search the first floor dorm area and bathhouse.

Ten minutes had already passed and the body discovery announcement hadn’t played, so Celeste assumed that no one had found Chihiro yet. And so, as she sat at her place with nothing better to do, she quickly became bored.

“What is taking that fatso so long to get my tea ready? It’s not like its rocket science or anything. Although a nerd like him might be better at rocket science than tea making—”.

“Thank you for waiting!!” the voice of Hifumi snapped her back to reality, along with the fragrant aroma of the tea.

“Hmhmhm. Finally…” was all she graced him with as he approached.

As he set her tea down in front of her, Hifumi noticed that everyone was gone and asked, “What happened to everyone else?”

“They elected to search for Chihiro themselves,” she told him, turning the tea cup carefully in her hand before letting her fingers delicately grasp the handle before lifting it up.

Just before the cup would reach her lips, the fat nerd had to open his mouth and ask, “Uh…shouldn’t we help with the search?”

Stopping just short of reaching her, Celeste held her temper as she replied, “We are to remain here in case Chihiro returns or we hear from the others.”

Resuming the lifting of the cup, she could feel the heat of the tea and was about to take a sip when the nerd decided to interrupt her pleasure once again. “A-Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

Again stopping before achieving her goal, Celeste barely managed to contain her frustration as she answered, “It is fine. I’m sure if they need us, they will call. Now if you please be silent. I have yet to judge your tea…”

“Oh! G-Go right ahead!” Hifumi insisted, finally quieting down.

Finally assured that she could sample the tea, Celeste cautiously placed the tea cup to her lips and sipped the blend. Instantly, she felt her rage spike.

“What the hell kind of shit is he making me drink?! I wouldn’t call this backwash ‘Milk Tea’ if my life depended on it!”

Without a moment’s hesitation, she threw the tea cup against the wall as hard as she could, a small smile appearing on her lips as it was smashed into tiny pieces. However, the smashing seemed to startle Hifumi, who jumped and shrieked in terror.

“What the—?!” he tried to complain but was instantly cut off.

“I HATE this kind of tea…” Celeste spoke harshly, turning her back to the destroyed cup. “Imagine, if you will, that we are at a coffee shop. Any everyday normal café and I ordered the Milk Tea. Would that imply that I simply wanted milk with my tea?”

“Uh…I suppose?” the fanfic creator tried to speculate. Unfortunately, for him, that was not the answer she had wanted to hear.

Continuing to hold herself back, she politely continued, “Well, that is not for me! I am among those who prefer the milk to be part of the brewing process! The fragrance is just so overwhelmingly sweet that way…”

She lost herself in a brief memory of sitting in a lovely little café with the fat shop owner personally serving her some of the finest Milk Tea she had ever tasted. That memory was now tainted by the fact that this other fat tea maker could not even be trusted to imitate the process correctly.

“I wasn’t expecting 5 Stars but at the very least I expected 4 Stars from him! My cat could make a finer tea than this uncultured pig!” she thought to herself as she took a deep breath.

“I cannot acknowledge any ‘Milk Tea’ that does not add the milk from the outset. Make it again.”

Celeste made the mistake of thinking that she had made herself rather clear but it seemed that her companion had yet to understand her, as he simply replied, “I went to the trouble of making you tea…and you wanted me to go a step further?”

“Indeed,” she barely got out, only just keeping her temper in check.

“But…shouldn’t we be more concerned about Miss Fujisaki—?”

Something inside of Celeste snapped, and all at once, she found herself reverted back to her a place she hadn’t visited in many a year…the land of Taeko Yasuhiro’s rage.

“Will you shut up about that?! Just hurry up and bring me what I asked for, swine!”

As her rage boiled over and she furiously shouted her demands, Hifumi seemed to shirk to the size of a pebble, letting out a horrid shriek of terror.

“EIIIIHHHH! You’re little piggy will bring it out right away!!!” he continued to scream in fear as he dashed back into the kitchen to, hopefully, prepare the tea to her specification.

Once he was gone, Celeste finally began to take deep cleansing breaths as she suppressed her original persona. And it wasn’t easy. She’d never lost her temper so furiously with anyone before. Sure, she was under a lot of stress with this killing game, not to mention that fact that, more than anyone else, she wanted to find a way to escape. A part of her considered bashing Hifumi with the tea kettle just to try and escape…

“No…that would be stupid. I’d be found out in no time. I need to be patient for now…not let my emotions get the best of me…no matter how much that pathetic piece of fat screwed up! Well…at least he did exactly as I said…when I commanded it of him…hmmm…”

As that thought echoed in her mind, she completely reset her persona and smiled pleasantly to herself. Perhaps this little arrangement with Hifumi could be put to use after all…

“Hmhmhm…I do so love coercion.”


 

Byakuya pushed open the door to the archive room within the library, a hint of dust rustling into the air. He surveyed the room for a brief moment but ultimately sighed as once again, he found no trace of a crime scene. With everyone splitting up, and the amount of time that had passed since they’d begun their search, the body discovery announcement had been eerily silent, as if lurking all around them, ready to blare in their ears as tragedy struck.

Honestly, a part of him was actually pleased they hadn’t found Chihiro’s body yet…it meant that the killer was thorough, which meant the oncoming investigation and trial would be even more stimulating.

“This game isn’t as boring as I first believed it would be…” he whispered to himself with a smirk as he began pulling the door to the archive shut. Just before he closed it, however, he noticed one of the books he’d purposefully left sitting out. A police file, to be exact, documenting his favorite unsolved murder case.

“Genocide Jack…it would be both an honor and a terror to meet you…” he audibly mused before movement behind him drew his attention. To his disgust, he found the odorous shape of Toko Fukawa ducking unsuccessfully behind a shelf. A great sigh escaped him as he called out, “Why must you insist on following after me? I have no want or even need of you. Now leave.”

He saw Toko stiffen before she peered out from behind her ‘hiding’ place. “H-How did you k-k-know I was h-here?” she asked, almost hopefully.

Scoffing as if his nose had suddenly clogged, the Togami Heir waved a hand in front of his nose and replied, “I can smell you from across the room.”

“W-What?!” the startled writing prodigy stammered, her eyes glued to his whether he wanted them to or not. And then, inexplicably, Toko wrapped her arms around herself, saliva slightly dripping from her edges of her mouth. “O-Oh…I suppose t-that makes…sense…”

0_0

**ATTENTION: Toko’s Fantasy**

Toko: (Shocked but awed) “How did you know I was here?”

Byakuya: (Seductive glance) “Your aroma is so strong, there was no way I wouldn’t be able to sense your presence.”

Toko: (Moaning slightly) “O-Oh!! Of course, you would be able to do something so…amazing!! That makes…(louder moaning)…sense!!!”

**EXITING: Toko’s Fantasy**

0_0

Standing there, watching this putrid woman holding herself and moaning did nothing to inspire confidence in Byakuya’s eyes. And so, he did as he always had done; put the filth in their place.

“You’re filthy scent aggravates me. Never approach me again. I’m leaving…”

He quickly moved past her, holding his breath to keep her rancid odor from invading his nostrils.

“H-Hey!” she abruptly shouted, making him glance over his shoulder just long enough to glare at her “…D-Did you…mean it?” Toko abruptly asked, far too serious for how she’d been acting before.

Perplexed but also somewhat interested, Byakuya came to a halt just before the door and countered, “Mean ‘what’ exactly? Get to the point.”

His harsh tone made Toko flinch, but she seemed to be enjoying it rather than being intimidated. And apparently, it urged her to continue, “W-What you said a-a-about meeting…Genocide Jack…did y-y-you mean it?”

For a moment, the Togami Heir was actually surprised, not only because she was questioning him but because she’d actually been able to hear him whispering to himself when she’d been on the far side of the room. If she hadn’t been so absolutely repulsive to him, he may have felt inclined to feign being impressed by her. However, as he wasn’t truly impressed, he decided that answering her would be the simplest way to get her to leave him be.

“I am Byakuya Togami, and every word that I chose to speak is the absolute truth. Why should that matter to you?”

Byakuya quickly learned that those words were the worst he could have ever uttered as Toko’s eyes suddenly sparkled and she practically leapt forward, grasping onto his palm with both hands.

“B-Because I’m Genocide Jack…s-sort of!!”

Time stood still as Byakuya slowly ingested what was happening to him:

First, he did not like being touched, ever. Least of all by a sweaty, smelly, utterly disgusting woman who he wouldn’t voluntarily waste his time on, even if it meant escaping this hell hole of a school. Second, there was no possible way that a girl this introverted, unsociable, and offensive to all five senses could possibly be the uncatchable serial killer he’d spent long hours into the night researching.

Jerking his hand from her greasy palms, he shoved her away with all his strength, sending Toko toppling to the floor with an…elated yelp? Briefly shaking his head, he wiped his hand on his pants as he growled, “Don’t touch me, you pathetic waste of space!”

Only now did he notice that, because of the sudden frustration and excursion, his voice sounded slightly frazzled, which could easily send the wrong message. Clearing his throat immediately afterward, he made a mental note to sanitize his hand as he turned his back to her and continued, “Your lies are as filthy and disgusting as you are. Even a serial killer like Genocide Jack has more value than you! Don’t even dare to try and imitate such a person!”

From the floor, Toko stared up at him, her eyes sparkling once more as she insists, “B-But it’s the t-t-truth! I have a split p-p-personality!!”

A scoff escaped Byakuya and he didn’t even turn to acknowledge her as he sarcastically replied, “I’m sure you do…”

“B-But I can prove it!!”

0_0

**ATTENTION: Toko’s Fantasy**

Toko: (Grasping her lover’s warm hand) “I’m…Genocide Jack!!”

(Byakuya’s face reddens. He shoves her away. She falls to the floor.)

Byakuya: “Don’t touch me…I’m not prepared yet!” (He turns away in embarrassment) Your lies won’t fool me! How could someone like you be the famed serial killer?! Don’t even dare to speak such things about yourself!”

(Toko understands her lover’s apprehension. She finds courage to speak the words of her heart.)

Toko: (Pleading for understanding) “But…it’s the truth! My split personality makes me do it!”

Byakuya: “While I’m sure you’d never lie to me, I cannot believe you…”

(Toko rises to her feet. Courage swells in her bosom. She decides to trust him.)

Toko: “I will prove it to you…with love!”

**EXITING: Toko’s Fantasy**

0_0

“Hmph,” Byakuya scoffed as he slowly turned to face her. “How far will you allow this little farce to go before you realize that I—?”

Before Byakuya could finish speaking, he saw Toko lifting up her skirt. The initial shock of her lewd action wasn’t what ultimately fazed him. It was the fact that, strapped to each of her thighs just below her waist, he spotted a very distinct set of scissors:

“Genocide Jack’s…‘Genoscissors’,” Byakuya whispered, using the nickname the police had given to the death dealing tool.

The pattern and design of the scissor was one that he had seen many times in the police file he’d perused over the last few months before coming to this school. They were the most unique cutting tool he’d ever laid eyes on, and there was no mistaking them. Not to mention that she had so many…not just one or two, but at least five or six were attached to each leg! Enough to crucify a man twice over—

“D-Don’t worry! I-I would never l-let her hurt you!” Toko blurted out, dropping the material of her skirt and hiding the killing tool once more. “I’d never h-hurt…my Master…”

It was only then that Byakuya realized the look of absolute horror that had overtaken his features. He could hardly believe it and even though the facts were scarce, there was enough to cause him concern. Not only that, if he considered that what she told him was true…then all the pieces fell into place.

This explains why the authorities were never able to catch him…err…her. No one would ever have suspected a student of Hope’s Peak to be a serial killer. Even though they deduced that it could be a student, who would believe that an introverted, lewd woman like her could be...

He clenched his fists as he felt embarrassment of his own. He’d solved a number of previously unsolvable cases before, although only for his own amusement and even then he never made his discoveries public. He had planned on being the one to finally uncover who this renegade serial killer with a pretty boy fetish could be. After all, some would consider him a prime target for—!

His breath suddenly hitched as his brain processed the situation he was currently in:

Alone…in a dark room…with a serial killer…that considered him to be her ‘type’…trapped in a school where murder was the only way out…

“Oh God…”

For the first time in a great number of years, he actually felt fear creeping into his mind. Death…it was standing before him, in the guise of a disgusting and vile woman. And in any other situation, he most certainly would have been impressed with that guise, except that it now threatened him…and he couldn’t have that.

And even though she’d claimed that she wasn’t there to hurt him, there was no way to be sure. Plus there was evidence to support her targeting him. She’d been stalking him through the halls for quite some time now, whispering his name in the shadows before disappearing whenever he turned around.

If she hadn’t foolishly revealed her true identity…she may have been successful.

However, now that he was aware of her…arrangement, even if he hadn’t seen her other side himself, he knew to be cautious around her. He would not become another footnote in the pages of that police file!

I am Byakuya Togami, the man destined to lead the world into a brighter future! And I cannot and will not allow a person as low-born and putrid as her the honor of ending my life prematurely!

Straightening out his features and putting on his usual air of superiority, he narrowed his gaze at the startled but flustered Toko. As if his gaze was burning through her, the writing prodigy’s breath hitched in her throat and she fell silent as he issued his command.

“You are not to mention this conversation to anyone…ever. If you do, then I will end you.”

Toko’s face burns crimson as she slowly nods. “I-I…understand. My Master…!”

Unable to stomach her any longer, Byakuya quickly turned and departed from the library, leaving a flustered Toko alone with her thoughts…

0_0

**ATTENTION: Toko’s Fantasy**

Toko: “Please don’t worry, I would never allow myself to hurt you!” (Blushing furiously) “I could never harm…my Master…”

(Wonder crosses her lover’s face. Confusion mixed with understanding. Passion as well.)

Byakuya: (Lustfully whispering) “Oh God…Toko.”

(He takes a step toward her. His hands cup her face. Toko flushes. She is overwhelmed by heat.)

Byakuya: (Breathing heavily) “I will…carry…your secret…to my grave! (He lets out an embarrassed moan) So please…do not speak of this…with anyone! Ever again! For I fear…it will be…the end of us!”

(Toko feels her lover’s genuine feelings. Her heart races. She nods slowly and euphorically.)

Toko: (Moaning wildly) “Yes! Anything for you…my Master!!”

(An explosion of ‘white’ covers all that can be seen)

**EXITING: Toko’s Fantasy**

0_0

As Byakuya slammed the door of the library behind him, he practically sped down the hallway as he made for the stairway leading toward the first floor. He knew it would difficult, but he had to force himself to appear as though nothing was wrong. He couldn’t afford to show his enemies any weakness…especially not now.

The killing game had been nothing but a distraction for him until this point, a form of mild amusement that he would eventually win, as he did with all challenges put before him. But now, it was different. The game had taken on new form, if only slightly. Now it was going to become a tool for him…a tool that might be the only way for him to survive long enough to win this game.

“I swear, on the Togami name…that I will never fall victim to that disgusting woman!”

With that resolve in mind, all he needed to do was find a way for the ‘game’ to dispose of the looming threat now known as Toko Fukawa.


 

“Are you sure? We could just stick to the first floor, you know?” Mukuro said as she helped Sayaka up the last few steps leading to the second floor.

“Only a few…of us… came up here…right?” the exhausted idol said, still not used to heavy excursion. Reaching the top, she took a few deep breaths before finishing, “We already searched the nurse’s office, student store, and the lobby. Besides…I haven’t gotten to see the pool or the library yet…”

A soft sigh escaped the disguised Mukuro as she looked over her classmate. Sayaka was obviously pushing herself, probably because of their conversation earlier. And while it was good for her to do whatever she could, the soldier also worried about her health. Even though her wound was healing nicely, it still wasn’t ready for sudden movements, which would be required if she tripped while on the stairs.

She really shouldn’t be up here...but then again…

Mukuro knew this was a glorious opportunity that she just couldn’t pass up. Glancing over her shoulder, the soldier stared at the boy’s bathroom door just in front of them.

Having taken advantage of Sayaka’s suggestion to help search upstairs in order to secretly uncover the hidden room, Mukuro felt that this time, everything would work out. Her objective from yesterday would finally be accomplished, removing the stain on her previously spotless mission record. Not to mention that with this, they’d finally have a fighting chance against Junko!

Sorry for using you like this, Sayaka. But you’ll thank me later.

Smiling brightly at the pop idol, Mukuro put her best ‘Junko’ personality forward as she replied, “Hey, not a problem! We can start by searching the bathrooms. I bet no one even checked them—!”

“Don’t bother, there’s nothing there.”

Both of the girls gasped as the boy’s bathroom door opened and out stepped Kyoko Kirigiri. In that instant, Mukuro felt all of her hope she’d managed to hold in begin to crumble.

“Kyoko? What are you doing here?” Sayaka asked, very puzzled to see her coming out of the boy’s room.

“Yeah!” the disguised Mukuro concurred, although for entirely different reasons. “I thought you and Makoto were searching the gym?”

The soldier did her best to keep her voice even, because she knew that Kyoko would see through any hint of suspicious activity and she could not afford that…especially right now!

Kyoko raised an eyebrow as she tucked a lock of her long lavender hair behind her ear. “We finished our investigation in the gym quicker than we thought. So Makoto suggested we help search the upper floor, he’s checking the classrooms down the hall right now.”

“Oh…I see,” Sayaka said, the mention of Makoto still slightly unnerving her. “Well, we came to do the same…where shall we start?”

“Anywhere should be fine,” Kyoko said coldly before turning away from them, presumably preparing to rejoin Makoto.

Despite herself, Mukuro felt like screaming. This was their one chance to get a leg up on the Mastermind and—wait! Maybe this was okay! Surely Kyoko of all people would be able to find the secret room, even if she didn’t know it was there! There was still a chance—still hope!!

“So, you didn’t find anything? Nothing at all?” Mukuro abruptly called out, stopping Kyoko before she left. The soldier knew she probably sounded a bit desperate, but she hoped it would be seen as concern for Chihiro’s disappearance. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest as the detective turned to face them, her face completely stoic.

“No, nothing at all.”

Those words shattered the little bit of hope that Mukuro had been building up for so long. As the clicking of Kyoko’s boots echoed in down the hallway as she departed, the soldier realized that their opportunity to one-up her sister was walking away with Kyoko.

It’s over…now I may never be able to help them find that room…dammit!” she mentally cursed, the shame of defeat weighing heavily on her.

The silence that invaded her ears was suddenly broken by the nervous voice of Sayaka. “So, uh, do you think we could check out the pool? It’s the closest room to us, right?”

Her classmate’s request brought the distraught soldier back to reality and she understood that, even though she’d failed this time, there might be an opportunity later. Besides, there was no time to be moping anyway, not with Chihiro still missing.

“Right…let’s hope we don’t get to see a dead man’s float or anything!” she joked to cover her apprehension.

“Junko! That’s terrible!” Sayaka reprimanded but still let her help lead her toward the pool area.

Stealing one last glance at the boy’s bathroom door, she proceeded to help Sayaka down the long hallway leading to the pool.

Little did she know that, from just around the corner, Kyoko’s lavender eyes watched them carefully as they departed. And the instant they were gone, she made her way back toward the boy’s bathroom, closing the door silently.


 

“After all that, we still haven’t been able to find her?!” Taka shouted to everyone as they sat at the cafeteria tables.

After each group returned, they all confirmed that none of them had found any trace of Chihiro or anything that appeared out of the ordinary. And although some of the group was more fidgety than before, namely Junko and, unbelievably, Byakuya, the overall sense of dread hadn’t dissipated in the least.

“This is beyond unacceptable! We need to search again!” Taka insisted, already heading toward the door.

“You want us to look everywhere? Again? For serious?” Hiro complained, making no move to get up from his seat.

“I don’t normally like to agree with Hiro but…he’s kinda right,” Leon insisted, exhaustion clearly overtaking him. “I mean…where the hell else could she be?”

A heavy silence engulfed everyone as their imaginations filled in the gaps with horrific images.

“Did anyone check the incinerator?”

A shocking realization overtook everyone as Byakuya spoke, a smirk on his face as he pushed up his glasses. Already the students began look to each other, connecting the dots of his accusation.

“What are you getting at?” Makoto dared to ask, despite knowing exactly what the affluent progeny was insinuating.

“All I’m saying is that the murderer is being quite thorough. And, to that effect, I wondered if the incinerator itself had been searched,” the Togami Heir commented, glancing over to Hifumi, who still had possession of the trash key.

Scratching his head nervously, Hifumi replied, “Eh, well, I actually wasn’t able to leave here in order to search, you see?”

“And why not?” Byakuya pushed, obviously already suspecting him. “Do you have something to hide from us?”

“Actually, he was busy preparing my tea,” Celeste informed them, sipping from her cup. “It took him several tries to get it half-way descent.”

Holding in a scoff, Byakuya folded his arms and said, “Then I suggest we take our investigation there. If we’re lucky, we may be able to corner the killer before he disposes of the body—”.

“Killer?! Body?! Did someone else get murdered?!” a frantic voice suddenly shouted.

“Yeah!” Mondo announced without thinking, turning around at the same time. “We still can’t find—CHIHIRO!!”

Everyone froze as none other than Chihiro Fujisaki stood in the doorway, rubbing the sleep from her red and panicked eyes.


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

Chihiro couldn’t help but flush as all of her classmates stared at her; some with concern and relief, but others with anger and distain. Byakuya in particular looked as though he was about to march over and rip her head from her shoulders. She’d never seen him so furious before, what possibly reason could he have to…

Oh god…he knows!” Chihiro panicked, her face blanching as she resisted the urge to flee. “He knows that I took the laptop and probably thinks I’m a murderer! He probably told everyone and now they all think I’m planning something horrible!

Even though there was absolutely no reason for such a bold assumption, the incredibly tired mind of Chihiro concluded that her theft of the laptop could be the only thing to upset the Affluent Progeny so. However, until she was accused of anything she decided it was best to try and appeal to their sense of reason. After all, she had been working on her Alter Ego project to try and help them after all!

Shaking a bit, she steadied herself as she asked, “Uh…w-what’s wrong—?”

Before she could utter anything more, all of her classmates suddenly charged her. Startled, she yelped and lost her balance, having to grab onto the door handle to keep upright as they surrounded her.

Oh God, they all know and they’re going to kill me for taking the laptop!!” she panicked and shivered as they all closed in on her.

Closing her eyes, she waited for something to happen and was surprised when everyone started patting her, as if checking for injuries.

“You’re not hurt anywhere, are you?” a concerned Hina asked, looking her over.

“That’s everyone present and accounted for! Good work everyone!” Taka congratulated them all, relief flooding his voice.

When Chihiro saw all of her classmates breathing easier now that she was present, she began to think that, just maybe, they didn’t know about her laptop theft.

“Just where the hell were you?! We thought you’d been murdered!” Mondo shouted, getting right in her face.

Okay, maybe they do know!” she reasoned, trying to calm herself as her body trembled.

Suddenly, Mondo was pulled back and away from her by none other than Junko, who glared at him and said, “Don’t go screaming at her like that! She’s obviously confused enough as it is!”

Jerking free, the biker hesitantly straightened his jacket and replied, “W-Well, what the hell was I suppose to say? She’s been missing all morning!”

“Yeah, but screaming at her isn’t going to help, now is it?!” the Fashionista refuted, glaring harshly as the biker folded his arms and turned away with a huff.

Hifumi slowly raised his hand and interrupted, “Perhaps we could get back to the matter at hand…like where Miss Fujisaki has been all this time?”

Junko physically flinched as she must have realized that she’d completely forgotten to ask. With a slightly flushed face, she turned to Chihiro and said, “Seriously, you kinda scared us. I rang your doorbell consistently for like a solid minute. Were you…uh…indisposed?”

Although it was kind of sloppy, Chihiro could tell that Junko was at least trying to be sensitive about where she might have been. Although, it didn’t really help the situation any regardless.

“I…uh…well…” Chihiro whispered, embarrassment overtaking her. “I couldn’t really sleep last night…and I didn’t really get to sleep until…early this morning. So, uh, I guess I overslept…?”

A momentary silence engulfed them and no one was quite sure what to say. Chihiro felt bad for not telling the whole truth but the tension in the air convinced her that it was best to keep the real reason for her sleepless night to herself. Just as she was about to apologize, someone unexpected spoke up.

“For serious? You were just sleeping?” Hiro abruptly shattered the quiet, an idiotic smile stretching on his face. “Well, I guess that makes sense! We all have our days!”

His irritatingly jolly laughter was enough to make even Makoto shake his head. However, everyone seemed to calm down a bit and accept what she had told them. Even Byakuya appeared to believe her, since he had neglected to voice his opinion, though he still seemed to be rather perturbed. At the same time, Chihiro felt very uncomfortable due to causing everyone so much trouble, but also relieved as well.

At least they don’t suspect that I stole the laptop…

Despite feeling that she wasn’t under suspicion any more, she still felt it was best to clarify the situation, so she decided to ask, “So, uh, would anyone mind telling me what happened this morning? I mean…did something happen?”

Her question triggered a wave of embarrassment that washed over all her classmates, as they realized exactly what they had been doing all morning. And it seemed that none of them were ready to even talk about it…at least until Kyoko spoke up.

“Allow me to explain,” she said as calmly as ever, making her way over to Chihiro to fill her in.

Kyoko’s explanation was short and swift, leaving Chihiro even more embarrassed. She desperately wanted to tell her friends the reason for her sleeping in but just couldn’t…not yet.


 

-Earlier That Morning-

“Master…Master…wake up. Master, please wake up.”

A strangely familiar voice stirred Chihiro from her peaceful slumber. Groaning softly as she lifted her head off her desk…wait, desk? Why did she? Oh, right. She’d fallen asleep while trying to figure out the bug in her programming.

Yawning and rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she lifted her head and was surprised to find a mirror in front of her. It was weird though, judging by her reflection, she didn’t look as though she’d pulled one of her usual all-nighters. And even stranger was that her reflection was…smiling? She hadn’t even realized she was smiling, such an unusual way to wake up—

“Greetings, Master! Good morning!”

A bit of drool trailed down Chihiro’s chin as her jaw dropped and her eyes widened. Had her reflection just…talked to her?! Was she still asleep and dreaming? Or was this another of Monokuma’s tricks perhaps?

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Master. Did you sleep well?” the mirror with her face asked.

Squeezing her eyes shut and rubbing them furiously, Chihiro blinked a few times to clear her vision and when it did, she gasped. That was no mirror, it was the laptop screen! And that meant the image of her own head floating before her could only be—!

“A-Alter Ego?!”

A pause occurred as the laptop made a mechanical sound, as if processing something.

“…Is that the name you’ve designated for me, Master? If so, I shall save it in my memory banks. Would you like me to save that—whoa!”

Chihiro couldn’t stop herself from abruptly lifting the laptop up into her arms and spinning around with it, giggling joyfully all the while.

“Yes! It worked! I never thought I’d get it in just one night but it worked! Yeah!” the programmer shouted, so happy that her creation had come to life.

“Master…spinning like this…is not…” the AI program tried to say but was drowned out by its Master’s cheering.

Everything was looking better now. Chihiro had done something that may be able to help them all escape the school, since her creation could analyze the files on that laptop for sensitive information. Not only that, she’d programmed her creation to learn and adapt, even when left alone, meaning that she didn’t need to watch over it all the time to ensure it would complete its function.

Also, it seemed that the pre-install microphone built into the laptop was functioning adequately enough. She’d been concerned, considering that the laptop was an older model and the microphone wiring was a bit loose and worn out, but it seemed that her creation could hear her just fine!

And, although it was a bit narcissistic, she just couldn’t get over the fact that her own image was the default for the program. Hearing her own voice was a bit strange but it felt the most comfortable. Plus, she could tell it about all her other friends and eventually, it might be able to imitate them too!

Chihiro was so enthralled with what she’d accomplished that she almost didn’t notice something important. As she spun around, her eyes caught a glimpse of the wall clock and she instantly stopped, her face blanching. It was hours past their usual meeting time and no doubt everyone was worried…or suspicious.

Realizing time was short, Chihiro instantly set the laptop back down before looking directly at her creation. “Okay, sorry but I need to go! We’ll talk about everything later so for now, just stay here and look over the files on this laptop. Can you do that for me?”

The mechanical processing noise sounded momentarily before the AI program smiled back and answered, “Of course, Master! Leave it to me!”

“Perfect! I’ll be back soon!” Chihiro shouted with a mixture of pride and haste, as she straightened her hair and uniform before racing for the door. Just before she reached the handle though, her own voice called out to stop her.

“W-Wait a moment, Master!”

Grinding to a halt, Chihiro turned her head around to see her creation staring directly at her. It was surprising enough that the AI had called out for her to stop but what was even more surprising was the fact that it had an almost…nervous look on its pixilated face.

“I’m sorry but I really need to go,” Chihiro insisted, only now realizing she was negotiating with an AI program, which was a odd but welcome notion. “We’ll talk later—”.

“B-But…!” the AI program insisted, as if trying to find the courage to speak. “Master, you never approved of my name! I don’t know what I am to be called…”

Shock overtook Chihiro as she registered what her AI was asking. Not only that, it was clear that it was imitating part of her personality as well, which was and yet wasn’t surprising. She’d used her own personal data as the base for the program, so it would certainly know how to imitate her but…it seemed more genuine than she could have predicted. Her program was learning at a rate that far exceeded anything she’d ever imagined.

She wanted to stay and examine it more, learn more from what she’d accomplished in so short a time but she just couldn’t. Instead, she smiled back at her creation and said, “Alter Ego…your name is Alter Ego.”

Upon confirming its name, Alter Ego practically beamed as it replied, “Thank you, Master! I’ll get to work on those files right away!”

A swell of pride immediately filled Chihiro as she watched the laptop go to work. Perhaps this is what it felt like for a parent to be proud of a child they had raised. It was an odd sensation, but it was the only way she could think to describe the feeling.

“She’s growing up right in front of me…” Chihiro whispered to herself with a light giggle.

Nevertheless, she didn’t have the luxury of time and decided to depart.

“Hopefully they won’t be too angry with me…” she pondered as she locked her door from the outside and headed for the cafeteria.


 

Upon hearing all that had transpired before she’d arrived, Chihiro wiped away the hint of forming tears and bowed deeply to her classmates.

“I’m sorry! I never meant to do that to all of you!” Chihiro practically shouted, ashamed that her oversleeping had caused such a panic. It felt like all she could do was apologize, since she was still worried about how they’d react to Alter Ego.

She might not have been, if it wasn’t for the vicious glare that Byakuya kept sending her. The way he was acting made her nervous to bring up her creation, since he would undoubtedly demand to see Alter Ego and possibly demand use of ‘her’. And she couldn’t allow that to happen. She had to protect her creation….until the time to show ‘her’ to the others was right.

She was about to apologize again when a manicured hand landed on her shoulder. Looking up, she saw that Junko was standing over her.

“Don’t worry about it,” the Fashionista insisted, giving her a big smile. “It could have happened to any of us. So don’t blame yourself.”

“B-But!” she tried to protest but was stopped when Makoto interjected.

“Really Chihiro, it’s okay,” the lucky student assured her. “As long as you’re okay, then it’s not that big of a deal.”

“I’m afraid I can’t agree with that,” the harsh voice of Byakuya caught them all off guard, Chihiro especially. With a menacing frown, the Affluent Progeny walked directly up to her and sneered, “In the future, if your plan on disappearing, could you at least have the courtesy to actually be dead? That way, we don’t have to waste the entire morning searching for nothing.”

The entire room froze as Byakuya’s cruel words invaded their ears. Chihiro in particular felt all the color drain from her face. As she stared up at the Affluent Progeny, almost unable to comprehend how despicable his action were, someone called out to her.

“Ch-Chihiro! You’re…”

The programmer turned to see Hina, who had appeared by her side, gesturing toward her face. It wasn’t until that moment that Chihiro realized that moisture was pouring down her cheeks. Not only that, she suddenly became aware that, despite not intending to, her reddened eyes continued to secrete a waterfall of tears.

This realization made her knees buckle and her hands shot to her face, desperately trying to wipe away the oncoming tears she knew wouldn’t cease any time soon. Uncontrollable, heaving sobs racked her body and she felt her insides twist as confusion wrapped itself around her frazzled mind, unable to comprehend why Byakuya had been so cold to her.

Just before she felt she would be swallowed by that horrific feeling, a strong masculine voice shouted.

“You son of a BITCH!!! How DARE you make a girl cry like that?!” Mondo shouted, making Chihiro’s head snap up.

“Hmph,” Byakuya huffed as he folded his arms, barely even acknowledging the biker. “It’s no concern of mine if she can’t handle the truth. Or are you saying that wasting the entire morning searching for that pitiful excuse for a weakling was an appropriate way to spend my precious time?”

Everyone could see that Byakuya was clearly baiting Mondo, and when they saw the vein in his head pop, they knew it was too late.

“YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!”

The biker charged but didn’t get more than few feet before two pairs of hands grabbed him. From the front, Taka had leapt before him and grappled his arms in an attempt to slow him down. From behind, Leon tried to get under Mondo’s arms and hold him back. If it had just been one of them, the biker probably could have shaken them off, but together, they barely managed to hold him back.

“Bro! You need to calm yourself!” Taka insisted, desperately trying to pacify his new friend.

“Seriously, man! Get a hold of yourself!” Leon shouted, obviously still exhausted but trying to do his best to keep his friend from going nuclear.

“GET OFF ME!! I’LL KILL HIM! I’LL FUCKING KILL HIM!!” Mondo protested as he was unable to break free. At the same time, Byakuya smirked at the sight and unfortunately, the biker caught a glimpse of it. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SMILING ABOUT, YOU PRICK?!”

Despite the opportunity, it seemed that Byakuya was entertained enough by remaining silent, as he merely watched as Taka and Leon continued to struggle with holding Mondo back. Just when it seemed that the Affluent Progeny had won, something unexpected happened.

SLAP!!!

The resounding noise startled everyone, as did the audible groan that followed. Everyone’s eyes shot over to see Byakuya, his head jerked to the side and glasses clattering on to the floor. Even more surprising was the person that stood in front of him.

Sayaka Maizono retracted her hand and glared menacingly up at him. Her legs were shaky and she was breathing heavily, due to her current state of health, but nevertheless, she furiously confronted the Affluent Progeny.

“Y-You! How dare y-y-you strike M-M-Mister Byakuya like that?!” Toko abruptly shouted but no one seemed to pay attention to her.

Sayaka in particular didn’t even seem to notice she’d spoken, focusing entirely on glaring menacingly at the Ultimate Affluent Progeny. And after what seemed like ages, she finally spoke.

“You should be ashamed of yourself…” she seethed, refusing to turn away from him, her blue eyes radiating with anger and determination.

The entire class held their breath as Byakuya turned back to face her. To their shock, he held no surprise or even anger on his face. He simply stared down at her with his usual condescending gaze. They glared at each other for nearly an entire minute before the Togami Heir abruptly turned and bent over to pick up his, amazingly, undamaged glasses.

Reapplying them to his face, he finally scoffed, walked a few steps away from her and said, “I don’t have any need to feel ashamed.”

He sent a glare back at Sayaka, who huffed and went back to her seat, looking utterly exhausted.

A confident smirk retook Byakuya’s features as he continued, “After all, it’s not as if any of us are friends. On the contrary, we are enemies in competition with each other—”.

“That’s not true!” Makoto immediately interjected, causing Byakuya to glare at him. “We may not all get along but…if we work together, then I’m sure that we can—”.

“You’re such a fool…” Byakuya interrupted, his tone turning more menacing than any of them had heard before. “Pretending to be friends with everyone? How long do you think that’s going to help you survive here?”

“Fuck you!” Mondo shouted, still being held back..

Byakuya’s smirk reappeared and he glanced at the biker as he replied, “If you can’t see the wisdom I offer, then it’s too late for you. Well, actually, it was already too late for you to begin with.”

Again, Mondo’s rage began to consume him and Taka and Leon had to double their efforts to keep him from rampaging.

“Bro! Calm down!” Taka implored, barely able to hold his grip.

“I AM CALM!!”

“No, dude! You’re seriously not!!” Leon insisted, unsure of how long he could hold the biker back. It was at that moment that a pain-fill voice erupted and startled everyone.

“Please…! Everyone just stop fighting!!” the sorrowful voice of Chihiro echoed in the room, gaining everyone’s attention. As one, all of the students turned to her and saw her furiously wiping away her tears as she tried to speak. “T-This is…all my fault! I didn’t…mean to…I’m so …weak…”

The sounds of Chihiro’s sobs pierced everyone’s ears, but one person in particular felt ashamed just hearing it. Mondo felt all the fight he’d been giving Leon and Taka fade and he seemed to sober up completely. Completely forgetting his rage toward Byakuya, he shrugged his friends off, walked up to Chihiro and said, “H-Hey! It’s not a big deal! Besides, it’ not your fault that you’re weak! That’s just how girls are!”

Unbeknownst to him, every single female in that room sent him a glare. Junko in particular stared menacingly at him but he was entirely too focused on ‘helping’ Chihiro to really take note of them.

“So stop crying already! I can’t stand it when girls cry…’specially because of me,” he continued, doing his best to comfort her. However, despite the fact that he’d tried to sound as nice as possible but he didn’t factor in that his tone was still very angry. Because of this, and his insensitive comments about women in general, and despite his good intentions, Chihiro just seemed to weep harder.

“Mondo! Don’t yell at her like that! And be a bit more sensitive about it too!” Hina shouted, going to Chihiro’s side and rubbing her back.

“I…I…I thought I was!” Mondo retorted, feeling more ashamed than ever, which only made him even more desperate to stop the programmer’s crying. Just then, he remembered something and a bright smile suddenly overtook his face. “I got it! I’ll make you a promise…as a man!”

Hearing that, Chihiro was finally able to momentarily cease her weeping and look up at him. “P-Promise…as a man?”

Seeing he may have finally done the right thing, Mondo smiled wider and gave her a thumbs up. “That’s right! And a man never breaks his promises! I may have mentioned it before but, my brother always drilled into me that, no matter what, a real man always keeps his promises! That’s what he…left me.”

Staring up at him, Chihiro barely managed to say, “L-Left you…?”

Hanging his head, Mondo quietly answered, “Yeah…he’s dead.”

A heavy silence struck the group and for a few moments, no one spoke a word as they absorbed this new information. Even Byakuya kept his mouth shut as the biker willed away his personal demons and finally lifted his head.

“A-Anyway, that means you can trust me when I make a promise! So, yeah…you don’t have to cry anymore…okay?”

It took a second, but after a few more moments, Chihiro finally replied, “O-Okay…” Wiping away the remnants of her tears, the programmer was able to lift her head up and smile. “…Thank you, Mondo.”

Whether he wanted to or not, crimson stained Mondo’s cheeks as he took in that adorable smile. Clearing his throat and turning his head away, he quietly answered, “…S-Sure…no problem.”

Hearing that, almost everyone in the group let out a sigh of relief. Even Mondo, in his embarrassment, felt a bit better about the situation.

A few moments later, Chihiro pulled herself up to her feet and said, “But…I still don’t like that I’m the reason you all were fighting.” Her confession made everyone’s mood drop a bit, knowing that their situation hadn’t actually improved in the slightest. However, that didn’t stop Chihiro from continuing, “I…I need to get stronger. I’m so weak that…anybody can make me cry…”

Hearing that, Mondo felt his shame slightly resurface as he finally took note of the menacing glares that all of the other girls had been giving him. At the same time, with a heavy sigh, Junko began walking over to where Chihiro was.

“Hey, don’t stress out over it too much, okay? It’s not your fault Chihiro,” the Fashionista said, circling around to the other side of Chihiro and wrapping an arm around her shoulder. “And not standing up to a prick like Byakuya does not make you weak,” she insisted, sending one last glare toward a confused Mondo.

“What was that?” the Togami heir seethed, narrowing his gaze at the Fashionista as he registered her insult.

“If you hadn’t provoked her, then we could have avoided this argument,” Kyoko chimed in, supporting Junko’s assessment. “That fact is undeniable.”

Shooting his gaze over to her, Byakuya was just about to retort when someone else join in.

“Even I must agree,” Celeste cut in, smiling daintily at the infuriated Byakuya. “What you said may not exactly be incorrect, but it went a tad bit far. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Even though he appeared to be calm on the outside, it was obvious that all of their comments were getting under the Togami heir’s skin. He certainly wasn’t pleased that he conversation had turned on him and made him out to be the villain here. Folding his arms, his fingers tightened around the material of his suit, as if holding in his anger. And just when it seemed he had found the right quip to retort, a new voice echoed in the cafeteria.

“…Personally, I think he’s got the right idea!” a horrifyingly familiar voice shouted.

The entire room tensed as they turned to see their captor, Monokuma, sitting at a nearby table watching the festivities. However, the bear’s appearance startled all of them.

A large red puff wig sat atop the half and half bear’s head, huge amounts of eye-shadow decorated its eyes, enhancing the terrifying red robotic camera/eye. Glitter was slathered across the bear’s face and its lips were adorned with massive amounts of bright red lipstick. Completing the outfit was a rainbow colored dress that hung down to just below where the bear would have had knees.

Monokuma had become the very epitome of a terrifying drag queen. And it drew disgusted looks from everyone…except for one. Chihiro couldn’t stop herself from trembling as she took in the demented bear’s new appearance. Even worse, she felt as though the bear was staring directly at her.

Why…why is he…?” she mentally questioned, her mind already giving way to doubt and fear.

Before she could try to understand the bear’s action, Monokuma turned to everyone and announced, “You shouldn’t pick on Mister Togami so much,” the bear said with an offensively fake feminine tone. “He’s got a right to his opinion! Just like I have a right to denying all of yours! Upupupupupu!”

Everyone cringed at how creepy the bear was presenting itself and it didn’t take long for one of them to protest.

“W-What the hell with that get-up?” Hina blurted out, obviously shocked.

A look of false confusion spread over the bear’s features at it looked down to examine itself. “Oh, you mean this old thing? Why, I don’t know what you could mean. Is it my dress? Is it too…revealing…?”

That last word was directed entirely toward Chihiro, this time was sure of it. She broke out into a cold sweat and cautiously looked around. It didn’t seem that any of her classmates could tell the bear was targeting her, or at least, she hope they couldn’t. But even more frightening was the implication Monokuma had made…

...They know…must have always known…but why now…?” the programmer tried to figure out, only to startled by a loud shout.

“Uhg! That’s so creepy!” Hina continued, still visibly startled by Monokuma’s appearance. “Why the hell would you dress like that?! It’s disgusting!”

…disgusting…

…disgusting…

…disgusting…

That word rang in Chihiro’s ears and for a moment, time seemed to stand still as her word began to crumble. Her hands unconsciously drifted down to her nether region, as if trying to hide something disgraceful. Fresh tears poured out of her eyes and whether she wanted to or not, she began openly sobbing once more.

At that moment, a hand rested on her shoulder and before she could look up to see who it was, Chihiro found herself pushed behind Mondo as he stepped in front of her. Only then did the biker remove his hand from her shoulder, fury seething in his eyes.

“What the hell is wrong with you, ya freaky ass bear?! Your weird get-up’s making Chihiro cry!” Mondo shouted, pointing furiously at the bear. “Now, take that shit off before I have to beat some sense into you!”

Although Chihiro should have felt grateful for Mondo’s willingness to protect her, she couldn’t deny that his words hurt her too. Looking around, she saw all of her classmates glaring at Monokuma with nothing short of disgust and displeasure on their faces. The way they looked at Monokuma right now…would they all look at her the same way if she revealed her biological sex to them? Would they all turn on her for lying to them? For making use of the laptop without telling them?

She honestly couldn’t even fathom what might happen if they all found out…and it wasn’t like she was strong enough to endure their disgusted gazes if that did happen. After all, she wasn’t even strong enough to tell them about the AI program she’d spent all night developing…all for the sake of helping them all escape. Not that it would do them any good right now…

I’m…so weak. I can’t even…stand up for myself…” Chihiro realized as Mondo continued to shield her from Monokuma’s offensive appearance.

“Oh well, whatever. At least I got to feel pretty for a little while,” Monokuma abruptly said, hopping off its chair and heading for the door. “I just want to personally invite all of you to the gymnasium. I’ve got a special surprise for you all.”

“What kind of surprise?” Junko instantly asked, angrily narrowing her gaze at the bear.

“Upupupu…you’ll just have to come and see for yourselves! On the double!” the bear shouted before waddling out the door and into the hallway, presumably heading for the gym.

Silence greeted them all for a moment before a stoic voice broke through.

“We’d best get going before Monokuma loses its temper,” Kyoko suggested, already heading for the door without another word.

“Y-Yeah, you’re right!” Makoto agreed, following suit.

As if sanctioned, everyone began heading for the door, knowing that whatever awaited them was going to be unpleasant. They only one of them that struggled was, of course, Sayaka, who had trouble standing on her own. However, Junko quickly went over and offered her shoulder, helping the idol up and out the door.

Meanwhile, Chihiro remained rooted in place, her legs still shaky. Just as she felt her strength was going to give out, that hand plopped down on her shoulder again. Startled, she looked up to see Mondo staring down at her, somewhat confused.

“Yo, uh, you alright?” he said, trying to be concerned. “Need me to carry you or something?”

Although it would have felt chivalrous at almost any other time, right now, Mondo’s gestures were like a knife being slowly turned in Chihiro’s gut. Every kind gesture was appreciated, but also made the programmer feel even more powerless and weak. However, she couldn’t let that show…not right now anyway.

“Y-Yeah…I’m fine,” Chihiro outright lied but knew it was the only thing she could do. Lying seemed to be the only thing she could do right now…

Just before they were about to leave, a loud bang caught their attention as they turned to see Leon stumble into a table, grasping it for support.

“What’s wrong with him?” Mondo questioned, completely oblivious to how utterly exhausted the ballplayer must have been at that moment. Either way, the biker ran over and grabbed on to his friend and said, “This isn’t the time to be sleeping! We gotta head for the gym!”

“Kill me now…” the exhausted Leon whispered as Mondo helped get him to his feet and marched him toward the gym.

Chihiro trailed behind them, her thoughts as heavy as the bags under Leon’s tired eyes.


 

Strangely enough, by the time everyone arrived at the gym, Monokuma was nowhere to be found. They had expected the half and half bear to be awaiting their arrival, or at least to reveal himself when they’d all gathered. It was certainly unsettling for them, but it concerned Mukuro most of all.

Why the hell would Junko call us only to make us wait? She’s never been keen on waiting or postponing her plans. That must mean…she’s up to something,” the disguised solider pondered as she surveyed her surroundings.

Taka was complaining about Monokuma’s tardiness to Mondo, who was only half listening as he was trying to keep Leon from passing out by repeatedly smacking him on the back of the head whenever the ballplayer closed his eyes. Chihiro stood close to them, but not right next to them, as if keeping her distance on purpose. Hina and Sakura stood together, as always, relying on each other’s support during this difficult time. Celeste stood off to the side, waiting patiently, with Hifumi only a few feet from her. Sayaka sat on the bleachers where Mukuro had left her, too tired to continue standing. Hiro paced near the back room, silently muttering a prayer of some kind, or at least that’s what Mukuro suspected his murmuring to be.

Byakuya was being his usual self, scowling as he stood far removed from the group. Occasionally though, he would send a glare behind him, a silent warning for Toko, who stared at his back from a distance. Mukuro though it odd for the Togami heir to pay any such attention to his stalker of a classmate but perhaps her persistence was finally beginning to wear down his patience.

Meanwhile, Makoto took his place in the center of the room, clearly looking around in case anything suspicious may happen. And, interestingly enough, instead of keeping her distance as per usual, Kyoko stood amongst her classmates, and only a few feet away from Makoto at that! Mukuro wondered about her sudden change in attitude but didn’t have time before the festivities began.

“Thank you all for waiting!!”

Everyone’s attention instantly turned toward the podium at the front of the gym and none of them even flinched as Monokuma shot out from underneath, his appearance returned to normal.

Mukuro could only guess but she was fairly certain that the drag queen get-up had only been there to disturb Chihiro personally, freaking out the rest of them was just an added bonus. But, did that mean that Junko was specifically targeting her? Why would she do that? It’s not as though the programmer was any kind of threat…demeaning as that might seem.

Still, was there something Chihiro had done to upset her sister?

Glancing over her shoulder, making sure not to make eye contact, Mukuro observed that the programmer was acting even more skittish than usual. But then again, that could have been because of the cross-dressing bear’s insinuations. At that moment, Chihiro momentarily turned her gaze toward the soldier, who immediately shifted her head to appear that she was yawning.

Now isn’t the time to be focusing on that,” Mukuro reminded herself, finally turning her sky-blue eyes to face Monokuma. In truth, she had barely noticed that the bear had been giving a speech about…their deepest secrets?!

Her head snapped back to stare at the bear, eyes bulging as she saw it holding no less than fifteen small envelopes. As if gauging the soldier’s reaction, Monokuma trembled with anticipation as it drank in her and her classmates’ expressions.

“You see, I’ve been growing bored of this ho-hum, no death, peaceful, hopeful, utterly infuriating slog that your school live has been up ‘til now,” the bear explained, fanning itself with their secrets. “My life just isn’t complete without a Blackened to spread civil unrest and general discomfort.”

At the mention of the Blackened, both Sayaka and Leon flinched. It didn’t help that Monokuma blatantly glared at both of them as it accentuated the word. The ballplayer, though completely exhausted, suddenly found himself alert and active, his breath hitching. Meanwhile, the pop idol pressed her back firmly against the bleachers behind her, wishing she could disappear into the darkness underneath her seat.

Only when Monokuma turned his gaze away from them did they get a momentary bit of peace, which was quickly shattered.

“That’s why I prepared these little beauties for each of you!” Monokuma shouted, holding out the envelopes as if they were playing cards. “Your deepest secrets and most embarrassing memories! Right before your very eyes! Perhaps with this, you’ll finally find the will to kill!”

A sense of dread overtook the room but this time, it wasn’t silence that occurred, it was anger.

“I don’t know what you have planned, but no one’s going to be killing anyone!” Taka shouted in protest, pointing a determined finger at the bear. “I swear that we won’t kill each other, no matter what you have in store for us!”

“Yeah! We beat your first motive! What makes you think this one’ll be any different?!” Hina insisted, her temper flaring.

“That’s right! We’ll never give in to you!” Makoto shouted, supporting both of them. “We’ve all survived this long without losing to you, and we won’t be beaten now! We won’t ever lose Hope!”

His passionate words sent out a flicker of hope that began to build up within the students as he spoke out. As if revitalized by those words, the sense of dread began to dissipate and the other students slowly hardened their features as they joined their classmates to determinedly glare at Monokuma…all except one of them.

Mukuro could only feel apprehension seeping into her soul, her face blanching as Makoto finished his little speech. Her gaze focused on the half and half bear, the soldier felt a bit of her strength leave her legs as Monokuma’s red eye camera twitched.

Makoto…you shouldn’t have done that…” she mentally grimaced, knowing the chaos that could be unleashed because of that single word…the word her sister despised more than any other.

…Hope…

Makoto had unknowingly pushed her sister’s “Hope” button…a feat that usually resulted in a slow and painful death. And from the looks of the bear’s features, her sister was about to drop a bomb on them.

“…Upupupu…Eyahahahahahahahahahaha!!”

Everyone froze as Monokuma erupted into hysterical laughter; even Makoto’s enthusiasm was stunted at the menacing tone that echoed all around them. And it was as mocking as it was frightening.

“You really think you beat the first motive! That’s rich!” the bear shouted between fits of hysteria. “If that’s true, why did we have the first class trial? Or have you forgotten how all of you were manipulated by one of your own?!”

With a collective flinch, everyone’s attention shifted over to Sayaka, who hung her head and squeezed her eyes shut. A few students, such as Byakuya and Celeste, stole a glance at Leon as well, who gritted his teeth and clenched his fists in self loathing. Makoto tried to counter the bear’s words but found himself unable to speak, the bitter truth destroying his resolve.

With a triumphant cackle, Monokuma pointed the envelopes at the students and seethed, “Face it! You didn’t beat the first motive! It beat you!!”

Hearing those words from the hated bear cemented their defeat, as none of them, even Makoto, dared to speak out against those allegations. Mukuro, most of all, felt herself beginning to lost heart. It was a difficult pill to swallow, but one that they, reluctantly, couldn’t deny. Even though she’d managed to save her classmates from certain death, Monokuma…or Junko rather, and her motive had won the first round. The Mastermind had proven that any of them could snap at any moment, and this morning’s argument between everyone served as evidence for that point.

“With that said…” Monokuma said before clearing it’s throat. “Let me give you all another bit of motivation!”

With a flick of its wrist, the bear tossed the handful of envelopes at their feet. Without a second’s hesitation, everyone scrambled to find the one that bore their name. With little effort, Mukuro managed to retrieve the envelope that bore the name ‘Junko’.

That was when she noticed that Sayaka had remained seated, not making a single move to retrieve her envelope. Then again, it kind of made sense. No matter what her secret was, it couldn’t have been worse than manipulating Makoto and nearly getting everyone killed.

Conflict arose in Mukuro’s mind, unsure of what was the right course of action. If Sayaka didn’t want to see her own secret, then it was her business, but at the same time, it could be a dangerous tool of manipulation if someone such as Byakuya got a hold of it. At the same time, there was no guarantee that anyone would bother, considering the state Sayaka was in. Even so, Mukuro thought that she at least deserved her privacy and turned around to scan the floor. Upon seeing the only envelope not to be retrieved, the soldier quickly scooped it up, and made sure it bore the idol’s name before slowly walking over to where Sayaka was sitting.

However, Sayaka didn’t react at all to her presence…almost as if she truly didn’t care if the other’s discovered her secret. It actually hurt to see the idol this tortured and broken but in their current situation, that was to be expected. Regardless, Mukuro didn’t want her suffering anymore than she already was, and gently set Sayaka’s envelope next to her, patting it for emphasis.

“…So that no one else can look at it,” she said quietly before moving away, glancing over her shoulder.

Slowly, Sayaka reached out and picked up the envelope, neglecting to open it and merely clutching it close to her chest, much to Mukuro’s relief. In the back of her mind, Mukuro greatly feared for Sayaka’s mental health. Being reminded of her own crime seemed to have partially undone all the good the soldier had been trying to do for her lately. This meant that, unfortunately, the soldier would have to keep a close eye on the idol for the next few days, just in case.

Her conscience appeased for the moment, Mukuro turned her attention back to her own envelope, not even pondering what cryptic message it contained. After all, she was living her secret in front of all of her classmates already, so there was little to speculate. Her fellow students on the other hand, were a very different story.

Junko had told her about some of the other motives she’d planned but never went into detail on any of them. So, while she was aware of the “Secrets Revealed” motive, she didn’t actually know the contents of all of her classmate’s envelopes. And while some were obvious, such as Toko’s Genocide Jack personality and Celeste’s true name, others were a complete mystery.

Hmm, I wonder what Makoto’s could be? I mean, what could he have possibly done that would be so horrible?” she pondered, stealing a glance at the lucky student as he gasped upon reading his own secret. His face flushed but otherwise he showed no change from his usual persona. The sight triggered the tiniest of chuckles from Mukuro.

Feeling a might bit relieved, Mukuro slowly opened her own envelope, pulled it the paper and unfolded it. She knew she’d need to react to the message despite knowing its contents, and had prepared herself to react accordingly. However, the words that greeted her were not what she’d expected at all.

“Junko” has a huge crush on Makoto Naegi

An audible and unexpected gasp sounded from Mukuro as she read the single line of her message a second and then third time.

What…what the hell is this?!” Mukuro mentally screeched, her brain unable to comprehend the information.

The message was so unnerving because it was so straightforward. It tackled the deepest secret that Mukuro actually had, not the one she had been keeping from her classmates. It was the only secret that Junko alone knew, one that had been revealed in a moment of weakness that Mukuro regretted to this very day. Sure, Junko may have precipitated that weakened moment but it was still her fault for revealing it!

The only bit of relief, if it could be called that, was that her sister had been lenient enough not to put her own name on the page. The “Junko” in question was no doubt a substitute for her real identity, just in case the others saw it. However, the way those quotation marks were placed would make the more astute of her classmates suspicious…particularly Kyoko or even Byakuya.

Mukuro made a mental note to burn that message as soon as possible…and prayed that Monokuma wouldn’t forbid the destroying of the messages. Then again, her sister wouldn’t need to go that far. After all, if she remembered correctly, the true horror of the “Secrets Revealed” motive that their embarrassing memories and secrets would be announced to everyone within 24 hours.

Even so, to have everyone…especially Makoto, know about her crush would be the height of embarrassment! Not only that, in a small way, it would put her position at risk because, as terrifying as it was to admit, it was even harder to explain. Really, what was everyone going to think when they find out that “Junko Enoshima” – the Ultimate Fashionista, had a crush on the skimpy, talentless, kind…compassionate…hopeful…Makoto…

Mukuro felt her face burn crimson and she slapped herself on the cheek.

Now is not the time to be thinking about stuff like that!”

Fortunately, everyone else was as preoccupied with their own secret as she was, so none of them noticed how panicked her features had become. Remembering her place, Mukuro stuffed the envelope into her blouse, the shock of its contents still evident on her face, as would be normal if she was the real deal.

Despite not wanting to expose herself, Mukuro couldn’t stop herself from shifting her gaze over to Monokuma, grimacing as she saw the bear staring right at her, obviously pleased with her reaction. It was at that moment that Mukuro understood that this secret was actually meant to reveal anything that would unmask her. No, it was just an example of the personal grudge that her sister undoubtedly held for her. And that’s what infuriated the soldier even more.

However, she kept her anger in check, knowing that it might give her away. Instead, she made a personal vow.

I don’t care how long it takes…I will make you pay for this, Junko!!


 

Toko’s split personality is Genocide Jack

The Ultimate Writing Prodigy squirmed as she read her message. Her breath was shaky and shallow, and she had nothing to draw strength from…except for one.

Turning her head, she glanced over at her Master, Byakuya Togami, as he slowly began to open his own letter. However, just before he pulled it out, he lifted his head and abruptly shifted his fierce gaze toward her. She gasped as their eyes met and for a moment, all was right in Toko’s world. And although he remained silent, she could tell what his gaze meant…

0_0

**ATTENTION: Toko’s Fantasy**

Toko: “Will he…keep his promise?”

(She chances a gaze at her Master. She gasps. His white hot gaze pierces her soul.)

Toko: (Loud moans) “Master Byakuya…”

(Byakuya maintains his façade, not showing his true feelings. He nods. Her secret safe with him)

Byakuya: (Mouths) “I will protect you…always.”

(His feelings reach her. Toko floods…with relief.)

Toko: (Gasping and moaning louder) “Oh…my…Master!!!”

(An explosion of white covers all that can be seen…)

**EXITING: Toko’s Fantasy**

0_0

Toko’s arms wrap around herself and she shudders, lost in momentary throes of passion.

My secret…is safe…with Master…


 

Celeste struggled to keep her rage from consuming her. Her hands gripped the paper so tightly that if she made even the slightest movement, she’d tear it to shred. But then again, considering the gravity of her secret, she could barely stop herself from flying into rampage. For all that her message contained was two single words:

Taeko Yasuhiro

It contained nothing else…just the name that she despised more than anything on this planet. The name she’d spent years forcing others to forget. The name she’d buried so deep that she had though it impossible to discover. The name that was, for her, the very definition of her disgust. The name that she would no longer be legal bound to once she was old enough to change it. The name that her filthy, pathetic, loser parents had given her!

Taking deep cleansing breaths, she managed to fold her message back up and neatly replace it back in the sleeve of her envelope, already plotting it’s destruction. Sparing a glance up at Monokuma, who didn’t seem to interested in her, she let a momentary glare of rage surface as she made a vow.

No one must know…no one must EVER know! I will kill anyone who knows the truth! Whoever you are, Mastermind…you as so fucking dead!”


 

Kyoko Kirigiri has lost her Memories

As I though...Monokuma is aware of my condition. Whether or not they are responsible for it is still unclear however…” the amnesiac girl thought to herself as she read her notice.

At least it confirmed her suspicion about the bear and how much it knew of her. She had surmised this long ago but it was reassuring to finally have some proof. Then again, that also didn’t answer any of her lingering questions.

Why did only she have memory loss? Was she somehow a threat with memories? Did they hold the key to escaping this place?

A piercing ache stung her head as she tried to force the memories to resurface. However, the pain grew too great and she was forced to grunt and take a breath. She knew it wouldn’t be easy to regain her lost memories, but the situation was growing more grim by the moment. She had hoped to find information on that laptop that Chihiro had examined but it seemed that she would have to rely on her wits after all.

Her only form of relief came from an unexpected source. Her lavender eyes shifted over to her companion, the only classmate she truly felt she could rely on, Makoto Naegi.

After the first trial, they’d spoken a number of times and each time, she felt more and more assured that he could be counted on if need be. Not that it was easy for her to admit that. She much rather preferred to be on her own, but given the situation, his unexpected talents were useful to her. Perhaps with his assistance…she might be able to solve the mystery of the school and why they were there.

Without even realizing it, she had found herself staring at him, only to be brought back to reality when he felt her eyes on him, making him turn toward her. However, she averted her gaze long before he could have caught her staring and simply shrugged as he went back to his message.

He’s growing more and more astute,” Kyoko observed, rather impressed at the same time. A tiny smile spread over her lips as she snuck one last glance at him. “I really am counting on you…Makoto.”


 

Sayaka didn’t have to open her envelope to know what it contained…it was a secret that she had sworn to take with her to the grave but it felt so pointless now. After what she’d almost done to everyone, it wouldn’t be that surprising. After all, the idol agency was a dark and horrifying place…normal people would hate all idols if they knew the things they had to do to stay on top.

Even so, Sayaka still didn’t want her secret to get out. She thought she was fine with it at first, opting not even to bother getting up to retrieve it. However, after Junko selflessly brought it over to her, completely unopened, she realized that there were some people she still wanted to keep her secret safe from. Namely Junko…and Makoto.

Those two still had pleasant things to say about her, regardless of her actions, but would they remain that way if they knew the horribly atrocity she’d committed in the past?

No…they’d abandon me too. As they should…” she felt certain, leaving no room in her mind for doubt.

That’s why she clutched that envelope so close…it was a final, vain attempt to protect herself. But something told her that wouldn’t last long…especially when Monokuma began speaking again.


 

An eruption of question echoed in the gymnasium, drawing out all rational thought

“H-How did you…?!” Hina shouted, completely shocked.

“How did you find out about this?!” Taka protested, his face turning blue at the very sight of his message.

“No way! I thought I covered that up!” a tired Leon insisted, rubbing his tired eyes over and over as he had trouble reading his message.

Even the great Byakuya Togami couldn’t hold his tongue after seeing his message. “This…this is…” he seethed, glaring at the paper so fiercely one might think it would burst into flame.

All at once the cacophony of startled and angry voices grew louder and louder, which appeared to be like music to Monokuma’s ears. The bear reveled in that joyous sound for a few moments longer before deciding to move forward with the plot.

“You all have 24 hours!” Monokuma abruptly shouted, silencing everyone and gaining their attention. “If someone doesn’t become a blackened by then…all of your deepest, darkest, most embarrassing secrets will be made public, via the internet!! And trust me, some of these are pretty freaky! The perfect motivator for the next stage of the game! Eyahahaha!”

A wave of nausea hit each and every one of them as that threat was made clear. Their deepest regrets and secrets…made public using the fastest tool to spread information. It was a truly frightening motive. Nevertheless, some of them didn’t despair…

“It’s definitely something I’d rather not have people find out,” Makoto interrupted the laughter, earning a glare from the bear. Hardening his features, the lucky student pointed a determined finger at their captor and shouted, “But still…we’d never kill over something like that!!”

“Wha-What?!” Monokuma choked out in utter disbelief.

A round of awkward silence followed that proclamation and just as it seemed that no one would agree with him, Taka abruptly concurred, “He’s absolutely right! Your plan is doomed to fail this time! There is no way any of us would commit murder over so small a thing! Isn’t that right, Bro?!”

The overconfident Taka turned toward his newfound brother and stopped cold as he saw Mondo, gripping his message tightly in one hand, his teeth clenched. Apart from being visibly upset by whatever was in his message, it was clear that he hadn’t really even been paying attention to the conversation.

“B-Bro?! Are you alright?!” the moral compass called out, startling the biker.

“W-What the hell?! What do you want?!” Mondo protested, confused by why he was being shouted at.

“I-I…uh,” A startled Taka took a moment to regained his wits and vigor. “I was saying that Monokuma’s motive is sure to fail! No secret we have could possibly warrant murder. To prove it…I’ll tell everyone my secret right now! Then we’ll all go around and—”.

“Stop!” Mondo roared, stunning everyone into silence. However, none of them were more shocked than Taka, who could only stare at his Bro in utter confusion.

“B-But…if we don’t do this, then—”, the moral compass tired to reason only to be cut off.

“I’m…I’m sorry, Bro. But…I just can’t. Not even if my Bro asks me to. Not right now…”

All at once, Taka lost the little bit of enthusiasm he’d had. His words of protest against Monokuma died in his throat as he saw how much the motive had affected his Bro. He lost all words and all he could do was lower his gaze, unsure of what to say. At the same time, Mondo had no idea what was going on or who to punch to make it better. It was then that Monokuma let out a mocking laugh, and the biker realized he who it was he should be punching…but couldn’t.

“See! I told you so!” Monokuma suddenly shouted, earning a glare from everyone. “Not everyone is capable of having their true selves revealed to the world, making it a perfect motive! Just because you are tough enough to handle it, doesn’t mean everyone else is! So don’t try to speak for everyone, glass half-full boy!”

The bear cackled, rearing its head back, the disheartening sound sending chills down everyone’s spine, none more so than Taka. He hung his head in utter defeat, shame encroaching in with each reverberation of Monokuma’s hysteria. Just as his personal disgust was about to peak, the bear abruptly ceased its laughter.

“Alright then, I’ll see you in 24 hours…or maybe I won’t!! Upupupupupupupu!!”

With that last irksome chuckle, Monokuma leapt backward off the podium it stood upon, swan diving into whatever hole it had prepared for its escape.

A secret so bad that you’d kill to keep it hidden…no one has a secret like that…right?

Makoto stood in the center of the room, pondering this notion as everyone fell silent. Sure, his secret was something he could live with the others knowing, but he had absolutely no idea about his fellow students. And while he couldn’t deny Monokuma’s allocations about someone wanting to protect their secret so intensely they’d kill for it, he still wanted to have faith.

Even though the demented half and half bear was correct that the first motive had beaten them, in a way, they had beaten it. After all, if they’d completely fallen victim to it, three of his friends wouldn’t be there right now. That tiny bit of reassurance was enough for the faintest glimmer of hope to flicker in his heart…

“Hey, so—”, he began but was cut off by an unexpected source.

“That’s a load of crap!!!” Everyone jumped as Junko shouted at the top of her lungs. Placing both hands on her waist and puffing out her chest, she continued, “Sure, we’ve all got something we’re not proud of, but that’s doesn’t mean we’ll kill anyone! Personally, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I agree with Taka! We outta just get it all out now and get it over with, better that than waiting for that two-toned freak of a bear to announce our secrets to—!”

“D-D-Don’t…say s-s-something so stupid!!”

The entire room shook as the timid but provocative voice of Toko interrupted the Fashionista. Even Junko herself seemed a bit startled by the writing prodigy’s sudden outburst. However, now that all of the attention was focused on her, Toko abruptly seemed to shirk before rudely finishing.

“B-Besides…I don’t w-w-wanna talk a-about it anyway…” she murmured at first, before sneaking a not so secretive glance at Byakuya. “I don’t c-care what anyone says! I-I’m not gonna talk about m-m-mine!”

Although this outburst obviously stunted Junko’s enthusiasm, she still seemed ready to argue the point. However, as she opened her mouth to protest, another voice raised an objection.

“And neither will I,” Celeste, unsurprisingly, concurred with the writing prodigy. “Not because it is unpleasant. But because it is impossible.”

Her enigmatic words brought a deal of confusion for most of them. However, it seemed that her mysterious way of explaining her issue peaked at least one student’s interest.

“Inconceivable! It’s human nature to want to hear if it is impossible or not!” Hifumi instantly protested, a strange sort of smile on his face. “C’mon! It’s better to say than keep it inside!”

A creepy vibe was shared by nearly all of the students at Hifumi’s sudden insistence. He’d hardly ever spoken to Celeste before today. And disregarding the fact that he’d been tricked into making her tea, he showed virtually no interest in anything 3D. He’d said so himself! So why now was he so interested in the Goth Lolita’s secret?

Before anyone had the chance to voice that shared opinion, Celeste huffed and answered him, “Absolutely not.”

Her firm tone and stern attitude made her position resolutely clear. However, like an anime convention participant offered free pizza, Hifumi pursued his goal with reckless abandon. Slowly walking toward Celeste, twiddling his fingers all the while, the Ultimate Fanfic Creator breathed heavily as he continued on his quest.

“It’s okay, just a little bit of information will suffice! You know you want to…” Hifumi insisted, inching closer and closer to her with each word that escaped his lips.

“As I said—”, Celeste tried to counter but found herself rudely and uncomfortably cut off as he got within a few feet of her.

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!” the fanfic creator encouraged; now standing directly beside her, his fingers wiggling with anticipation. “What devilish secrets lie beneath that cold exter—?”

Almost everyone could hear a vein in Celeste’s head snap as she spun toward him and shouted, “I said, I don’t want to talk about it! You human bag of lard!”

Lifting her foot, she promptly kicked him square in the stomach. As her red heeled shoe connected, Hifumi doubled over onto his knees, gasping for breath. With a final huff, Celeste took two huge steps away from Hifumi, who writhed in agony on the floor, no one coming to his aid.

Folding her hands under her chin and smiling as graciously as she could, Celeste concluded, “I’d prefer to keep my business private. If you don’t mind.”

Almost unsurprisingly, no one asked if Hifumi was alright, preferring not to get involved in the slightest. Not only that, not a single person questioned Celeste’s reaction, not even Makoto, who should have found her sudden personality change disturbing. And before any of the more inquisitive students could reach that conclusion, another objection sounded.

“I agree with them. I have no need to discuss my private affairs with the likes of any of you,” Byakuya finally voiced. Everyone knew it would be coming sooner or later, his distaste for all of them making his decision evident before he even voiced it.

“Um…sorry but…I don’t really want to discuss it right now, either.”

Everyone turned in shock to see Chihiro, moisture building up in the corners of her eyes, her head downcast as she gave her opinion. However, almost immediately her head shot up and she looked right at Junko with tearful eyes.

“B-But I also don’t want to leave things this way! After I…try my best to become stronger…maybe we can…talk about it later?” she said hopefully, praying that no one laughed at her.

More than anyone else, Chihiro’s objection to the decision seemed to be what swayed Junko in the end, because after taking in the programmer’s apprehensive comment, the Fashionista lowered her gaze and sighed deeply.

“…Alright, I get it. If none of you want to…then I guess there’s nothing we can do about it,” Junko replied, sounding completely defeated, hanging her head as she finished.

The very sight of it bothered Makoto, because she’d been working so hard to unite everyone after what had happened to her. Sure, she was still hard to understand and get alone with sometimes, but she proved that her heart was in the right place. She’d become someone they all could count on, and the lucky student didn’t like the fact that she seemed to be giving up.

That’s why, when she lost the argument, Makoto found himself walking over and tapping her on the shoulder. As she looked to him, noiselessly gasped and averted her gaze, probably because she wasn’t expecting anyone to come talk to her or something like that. Smiling brightly, Makoto decided to say what he’d come to say anyway.

“It’ll be alright. We’ll just all have to be extra careful until tomorrow,” he reassured her, trying to be as supportive as she had been for them. “I’m sure we’ll all be strong enough to make it through this. We just have to have hope and faith in our friends, right?”

Even though he’d wanted to say that to everyone, it was too late now. Most of them were already preparing to leave and he wasn’t sure if anyone but Junko had heard him. Regardless, he still felt it needed to be said, even if only one student heard him.

“God, you say some cheesy crap, don’t you?” Her condescending tone startled him, as he wasn’t expecting such hostility. Just as he felt he should just leave her be, she turned back toward him and said, “But…I guess you’re right. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

A light smile decorated her lips and Makoto responded in kind. “Yeah! We’re all gonna be fine!” he insisted, not letting Monokuma’s words bring him down.

“We should still prepare for an unfortunate outcome though,” a calm and stoic voice suddenly said from behind them. Abruptly turning, they saw that Kyoko had remained behind, listening to their entire conversation. “But if we remain vigilant, then perhaps we can avoid further incidents.”

Junko frowned at Kyoko’s sudden appearance but Makoto could only smile and nod enthusiastically. “Right! Let’s all do our best! Alright?” he encouraged, looked between both of them.

Junko and Kyoko took a moment to stare at each other, as if each of them were examining the other. At the end of it though, they both sighed and merely nodded, not saying a single word to each other.

It must be because they don’t talk to each other much,” Makoto surmised, still pleased that they had come together. “But I’m sure we can do it. We’ll beat Monokuma at his own game! All of us…together!

One by one, all of the students disbursed, many of them needing time for them to wrestle with their own demons. As it was only about an hour past noon, there was a lot of time left in the day to ponder their situation. The only one left after it was all over was Sayaka, who gently slipped her message in her pocket. However, the moment she did, her eyes widened…


 

“Master…I think you have a malfunction. You’re leaking fluid from your face…”

Alter Ego’s misguided words of concern didn’t stunt the onslaught of tears that poured from Chihiro’s eyes. The programmer had fled back to her room as fast as she could, knowing she couldn’t stop the flood of moisture that burst forth as soon as she locked her door. Her motive was left upright on her bed, the message further tormenting her:

Chihiro Fujisaki is…A BOY!!!

Resting her head on her desk, she’d almost completely forgotten that Alter Ego was there until it had spoken up. Lifting her face up, even more tears welled up as she glanced at her creation. After all, this was another secret that she’d been keeping from everyone. However, somewhere deep inside her, she felt that she shouldn’t be crying in front of Alter Ego.

What kind of example am I setting for her?” she questioned herself, forcing herself to sit up and furiously wipe away the tears. “I need to be strong…for her.

Putting on the best smile she could manage, Chihiro said, “Everything’s…alright, Alter Ego. I’m just…having a few problems. B-But everything’s okay! I’m…going to be okay…”

She felt horrible for lying to her creation but she had to at least try to be strong, despite wanting to break into a million pieces at that very moment. And, unfortunately for her, she’d done too good of a job programming her creation.

“But Master…I know that humans don’t usually leak fluid unless they are deeply infected with a virus. Do you need protection software to remove it?”

Again, Alter Ego’s concerned words only provoked more unrest in her creator, and Chihiro made a mental note to explain about human physiology to the AI program later. Regardless, knowing that even her creation could see how troubled and…weakened she was, only made the programmer fall deeper into depression.

“I…I’m sorry, Alter Ego. It’s just…I feel so weak right now,” Chihiro said, choking back sobs as best she could. Standing up and turning away from her creation, so that it would see her crying, she continued, “I don’t…know what to do…and at this rate…I won’t make it…out of here…alive. Maybe if I was strong…like Mondo…then, maybe I could be—”.

“Please pardon me, Master, but…who is this Mondo you speak so fondly of?”

Alter Ego’s simple question caused Chihiro’s gaze to shoot over to the laptop, surprise evident on her reddened face. Was the AI program…actively questioning something to learn more about the situation? Could it be that…Alter Ego was actually curious about this person her Master spoke about? Or perhaps, was it simply trying to fulfill its function and acquire as much information as possible to further its development? Did Alter Ego actually care for its Master’s well-being or was it simply acting according to programming?

In any event, it brought a much needed sense of clarity to Chihiro, who immediately wiped her eyes and returned to her seat at the desk.

“H-He’s…Mondo is…someone I look up to…and respect,” she said, beaming.

“Oh, do you have romantic feelings for him, Master?” Alter Ego innocently asked, causing Chihiro’s jaw to drop, unsure of how her creation learned of such a thing having only been ‘alive’ for a single day. Nevertheless, the AI program continued on, “Because copulation with him is impossible because you’re both of the male sex—”.

“No! No! Eww! No! I’m not attracted to him! Or men in general!” Chihiro shouted, waving her arms frantically. “I just meant that he’s really cool! Like a big brother or something!”

The mechanical processing noise sounded from Alter Ego once more and the AI program corrected itself, “I see. Master’s preferences have been updated. I apologize for upsetting you with my conclusions.”

Taking a deep breath, having resolved the misunderstanding, Chihiro took a brief moment to consider what to say next. “Would, uh, would you like to hear more…about Mondo?” she asked apprehensively, as if talking to a real person.

Immediately, Alter Ego’s pixilated face lit up and it shouted, “Yes! Please! I’d love to hear about someone who you respect so dearly, Master!”

Alter Ego’s excitement was practically infectious and all at once, it stopped the flow of tears that had been plaguing Chihiro. Taking one last moment to wipe away the moisture from her entire face, the Ultimate Programmer situated herself comfortably in her seat and prepared for a very long conversation.

“Hmm…where do I start?” the programmer said with a light giggle, making her creation smile as well.

For the next few hours, Chihiro explained everything there was to know about Mondo to the fascinated AI program.


 

“Everything seems to be fine here,” Taka spoke aloud to himself, as he closed one of the classroom doors on the second floor. He hadn’t known what to do with himself after the motive was announced, and so he fell back on his old instincts to calm his nerves.

That was scouring the halls for rule breakers.

As Taka continued to ‘patrol’ the second floor, he couldn’t keep from pondering his own motive, with great distain.

What will my classmates think of me when my secret is revealed? How can they respect someone with such a foul and disgusting secret? I know that I would lose respect for someone who let a simple thing like—”.

Before he could complete that thought, a loud and aggravated shout reached his ears, echoing down the hall that led to the pool.

“I know that rage-filled shout!” Taka realized aloud, speeding toward the pool area. Pushing open the double doors leading to the pool locker rooms, he was correct in assuming that it was Mondo kicking the door furiously.

“Bro! What’s wrong?!”

Spinning around with his fists clenched, ready for a fight, Mondo’s anger suddenly faded when he saw it was Taka calling out to him. Obviously embarrassed, the biker let out a deep sigh before face-palming and rubbing his tired eyes.

“Shit man, ya scared the crap outta me,” he admitted, taking a deep breath.

“I could say the same! You were shouting so loudly I heard you down the hall!” the Moral Compass concurred, relaxing somewhat now that it seemed there wasn’t an emergency. “I thought something may have happened…”

Both of them paused, knowing that, for entirely different reasons, they had overreacted. With everything that had happened today, it wasn’t unexpected. Everyone was on edge; even Taka felt his normally calm and decisive manner was waning. But that was all the more reason he needed to keep a level head and do what he could to assist his classmate…and friend.

“So, what were you shouting about?” Taka asked, trying to help his obviously frazzled friend.

“Oh, right…” the biker replied, remembering why he’d flown into a rage. Reaching into his pocket, he produced his e-handbook. “I wanted to come up here and work-out for a while…try to get my mind off that damn motive. But for some reason, my handbook won’t open the damn door for me!”

Staring at the essential tool for school life, Taka raised an eyebrow and asked, “May I see it for a second?”

Without a word, Mondo tossed it over to him. Catching it, the moral compass decided not to lecture his friend about simply passing items over instead of throwing them, due to how upset the biker was right now. He’d be sure to remind him later.

Pressing the power button on the device, Taka was surprised when it didn’t immediately roar to life. Instead it remained dark and useless, instantly helping the Moral Compass to understand why it hadn’t allowed Mondo entry.

“It appears to be broken,” Taka told Mondo, who had moved to look over his shoulder and see what could be done. “But how could that have happened? Monokuma told us these were practically unbreakable—”.

“Oh shit…”

Taka’s gaze shot over to his friend and saw a surprised and yet embarrassed scrunching to Mondo’s face. Slowly, the biker turned his gaze to Taka and continued:

“The sauna…”

Instantly, Taka understood. He recalled their battle of wills in the sauna yesterday and that his friend Mondo had elected to keep all of his clothes on, more than likely leaving his e-handbook in his pocket as well. The extreme temperature would be enough to destroy any electronic, no matter how impressively constructed it was.

“…Oh, I see.”

Taka could muster no other words than that. He knew the implications of not having this device, and unfortunately, the only course of action to replace one was to ask Monokuma for a replacement. And there was no way any of the students would ask for favors from the demented bear.

“God-dammit,” Mondo cursed quietly, his fists clenched and his eyes downcast. “Now I can’t ever work-out! This day has gone from ‘fucked’ to ‘fuck everything!’ Son of a bitch!”

Seeing his friend in so much agony tore Taka apart inside. His first friend, someone he had bonded with over their shared interest in proving their strength, was now unable to enjoy even the simplest of pleasures he could find in this place. This would not do!

“Don’t worry, Bro! I got this!”

Without waiting for Mondo to ask what he meant, Taka marched over to the door leading to the boy’s pool locker room. Holding up his own e-handbook, he unlocked the door and held it open.

“For now, whenever you need to get in here, just let me know and I’ll let you use my handbook!” he proudly declared, smiling triumphantly at his friend.

For an entire second, Mondo seemed entirely surprised, but it quickly faded as he laughed joyfully. “Seriously? That’s awesome, Bro! I owe you one!”

Mondo stood up and headed toward now open locker room, and the exercise machines within. Once he was inside, Taka asked, “Perhaps you’d like some company? It has been a while since I worked up a good sweat myself.”

The instant he said that, he saw Mondo flinch. He knew that wasn’t a good sign and it was confirmed when the biker quietly answered, “No offense, Bro…but I think I need some time to myself right now. Nothing personal…”

As much as it hurt for his offer to be rejected, Taka also understood where his friend was coming from. And he, more than anyone else, knew that alone time was a valuable thing for a young man to have. After all, studying and mental training didn’t happen when in a large group, a lesson he’d learned long ago, and thus always prepared for classes in private. This was just Mondo’s strange version of alone time and he wanted to respect that.

“I understand. Perhaps tomorrow then?” he offered, perhaps a little too hopeful. However, he was pleased when Mondo turned and held out his fist toward him.

“Sure, man. It’s a promise.”

With a confident smile, Taka nodded and fist bumped his friend. “Indeed, a promise between men!”

With their business complete, they both nodded at each other before the Moral Compass turned and exited the room, heading back to his own room. He never saw the look of self-loathing that spread over Mondo’s face as the door closed.


 

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

“So…we only have 24 hours until Monokuma reveals all our secrets to everyone,” Chihiro finished explaining to Alter Ego, who stared at its Master in fascination.

“Actually, Master, if this occurred just before you returned, then you have exactly 18 hours, 19 minutes and 44 seconds before that deadline is up.”

The AI program smiled, hoping its Master would be pleased with having the exact amount of time made known to them. However, it only solicited a tearful look from Chihiro as she realized that she had spent the last six hours explaining everything that had happened to all of them up until this point.

Upon seeing its Master’s less than pleased reaction, Alter Ego immediately gasped and said, “I’m sorry, Master…I seem to have upset you. I was simply trying to be useful…”

Hearing those words made Chihiro shake her head and wipe away the unshed tears. “No, it’s not your fault. None of this is your fault...it’s not any of our faults.” She fell strangely silent, her head drooping and her gaze lowering for the first time in hours. “If I was stronger, I could handle this situation better but…”

“Master, I’m afraid I can’t comprehend what you’re saying,” Alter Ego replied, a small mechanical processing noise showing its inability to understand. “Why do you believe you are weak? You were able to create me in only a few hours, is that not a strength?”

An ironic chuckle escaped Chihiro, never imagining that her creation would be the one to console her. “Yeah, it kind of is but…it’s not the kind of strength that I want. I want the strength to survive…to be able to help my friends and be there for them when they need me.” She choked on her words, doubt and futility creeping into her mind. “At this rate…I don’t know if I’ll even live long enough to see the outside world again. I’m so weak…I can’t do anything—”.

“Master! I have an idea on how to make you stronger!” Chihiro’s head shot up as Alter Ego continued to insist, “You have mentioned that your friends, Leon and Sayaka, were able to stay alive because your other friend, Junko, saved them, correct? Why don’t you ask Junko to save you too?”

This time, Chihiro couldn’t help the tiniest bit of laughter that bubbled up in her throat and she smiled as replied, “That’s not exactly how it works, Alter Ego. Remind me to educate you about how friendship works.”

The mechanical processing sound